Tag Archives: fees

The right choices for a future careers market

We’re at the time of year that final-year students have now essentially finished and submitted their applications and are waiting for, or receiving offers; but even so they ought to have something to bear in mind going forward – though the careers programme’s attention will shortly shift to younger students. So if you’re in year 11 or 12, looking forward from GCSE or A-level, this is mostly for you, although 13s will find it useful too.

People underestimate how common dropping out of degree courses is (about one-fifth, by some measures) – usually in the first year. The result is a year of lost time, a feeling of despondency at your mistake and at the fact you now have no careers advice and support to draw on – and a massive load of extra unnecessary debt. This is why careers advisors try so hard to get people to think early, compare in depth, visit universities and apply broadly – you can’t get this decision wrong. Still, if you do choose a degree you hate, here’s some thoughts. If you’re in year 11 or 12, start planning ahead to avoid being in that situation.

And you need a degree. 41% of the UK workforce now have one, a huge leap from 26% in 2000. That increasing competition probably explains the upward pressure on university offers at all levels, the most prominent and high-profile of which is that Oxbridge now looks like A*A*A will become the normal minimum; but the same ever-higher-bar will apply to each tier below in turn, with everyone shifting up one. There are AAB minimum entry demands as far down as 40th on some league tables for 2015.

It’s not just grades; cost too might be more of a criterion than you think. Those nine-thousand fees per annum (more likely twelve to twenty if you don’t get UK home status, which is becoming more likely) need to be added to high rent costs, living costs and horrific RPI + 2% interest lifelong, so a four-year degree and Masters (very common now) might leave you over a hundred thousand pounds in debt in practice. So the different cost of living of different universities might make a surprising difference in your calculations.

Alternatively, you might just want to be where it’s at right now, regardless of cost. After all, if the UK is going to charge you international fees, why give it preference over any other country’s universities? I’d strongly encourage students to be more global and make applications across multiple countries: here’s a list of the best ten student cities in the world. Of course, British students might have to overcome their traditional xenophobic antipathy towards languages – do the reasons to value languages from this survey chime with your assessments of the interests and value of languages? An example of a private company supporting international applications is http://www.astarfuture.co.uk (though we’re not endorsing that, just advising you shop around these kind of companies.)

One traditional and in-demand subject which is actually not very international is law, due to the distinct differences in legal procedure in different jurisdictions; but even here technological advancement is sharply changing the nature of employment for graduates – so be mindful and think ahead. One important development in recent years is MOOCs (for all subjects) and students ought to be taking these now of their own volition before applying to university and referencing them on their personal statements.

Technology’s not always good, of course, despite our tendency to glamorise the new, and strong applicants to good universities must realise that some old-fashioned skills (written practice, detailed notes, systematic wider reading, silent study) are irreplaceable to at least some degree by trendier modern methods that use quizes, group work, IT-for-everything and discovery learning; there’s been a bit of a backlash here. Read carefully and be discerning (don’t take a strong position either way or jump to conclusions) but it’s worth reading this critical study by top education researchers the Sutton Trust; also, take care of this self-promoting author, but some of these points are valid. Perhaps this continued core of traditionalist practices reflects the news that private school students do better than equivalent-scoring state schools students. The Telegraph’s conclusions are heavy-handed and political but it’s an interesting read; I would argue that this is caused by the opportunities for leadership, broader curriculum, and context that enhances these students’ readiness for university as well as more traditional methods of teaching perhaps common in those contexts.

Finally, locally – good luck to our year 8s, going on work shadowing the week after next – what a great way to prepare for a future jobs market! And if you’re in year 11 or 12 and really aren’t sure about universities at all, contact our partner school JBS to request attending their careers fair on Sunday 14th December (you’ll need to get permission to miss lessons that day, of course.)

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Study outside of the UK?

I’ve talked before about the importance of considering study outside of the UK, and indeed have specifically recommended Holland, where fees are much lower now than the UK and yet courses are still taught in English and internationally well-recognised.

Looks like the news caught up.

With fees now as high as they are, even British students preparing to make a university choice ought to consider Continental European university options.

Review: recent careers posts (The Independent)

There’s been some nice career-related articles in The Independent in recent months, with an interesting range of topics. Many have chimed with issues discussed before on this blog, or reaffirmed points made here.

Firstly, there’s this article on the benefits of studying outside of the UK – although the event is refers to is in the past, look at the points about how to seek decent opportunities and be open-minded about other options when considering universities. And whilst a university degree remains the most safe, predictable and assured route to career success, here’s an interesting view about why not going onto a degree might be the making of you.

Several interesting articles come together to help you reflect on the sudden huge hike in fees at UK universities, and whether this makes degrees worthwhile (or even accessible) any more. Maybe start with an article from 2010 where the universities minister talked about wanting more online degrees (i.e. not attending the university) – is this embracing a new digital age or just a cop-out with cheap degrees worth less than “real” ones? Once you’re paying more, of course, you can be a bolshier customer, so the question of whether students are getting value for fees money comes up. One way universities are starting to try to draw the best is by offering fees reductions to the best A-level performers – I’m tempted to predict more and more of this will happen. The best grades might soon not just mean the best places but also the cheapest fees. Meanwhile, universities look like they’re starting to withdraw co-operation with FE colleges in order to make students take only full fee-paying courses – reducing choice and opportunity for some students, particularly those at the weaker academic end. You might think this unfair – or perhaps you take the view that university places should be limited, and only for those who aim high, work hard and compete for limited places at good institutions?

Finally, higher fees (which have already savaged application numbers nationally in the UK) means the death-knell for courses which aren’t popular. For some commentators this means good riddance to worthless degrees and good news for students – but in the age of the mindlessly narrow and pointlessly traditionalist EBacc, does this mean we’re cutting “new” style courses – IT, service industry, media courses – on which the future western economy depends? And will students have to go further to study the degree they want – at more cost to them?