This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It introduces the perspectives from politicians and showcases the idea from the Rt Hon. Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee.
This country’s obsession with full academic degrees has led to the creation of a higher education system that favours academic routes, while intermediate and higher technical offerings are tiny by comparison. Our labour market does not need an ever-growing supply of academic degrees: there are not the jobs available and for many graduates the return on their investment is paltry. Other young people are currently being set-up to fail, with a third of England’s 16-19-year olds stranded with low basic skills.
The Office for Students must make rebalancing higher education a priority and incentivise universities to offer degrees which will meet our skills needs. We should end the divide between technical and academic education and rather see them as intertwined: two parts of the same system of self-improvement and both equally well supported. Degree apprenticeships are the perfect expression of this and universities should be ramping up their offer of these courses. Education should be a ladder of opportunity for all young people and our higher education sector needs to up its game to recognise and support those who pursue technical qualifications.