A note from Esther McVey: 90% of Students are Concerned about their Employment Opportunities
Updated: Jun 23
It is a worrying statistic. Of the 500 students who were recently surveyed about their future employment prospects, 9 in 10 said they were concerned.
COVID-19 is at the heart of student concerns. However, for many, there is an even more immediate concern. Students are currently asking themselves; will my expensive university educations be up to scratch?
This week Cambridge University confirmed that all lectures will be online-only until the summer of 2021. The watchdog that oversees universities, has said that students applying for university places in England must be told with "absolute clarity" how their courses will be taught before they have to decide what they will do this autumn. But what about those students already at university who say that their education is suffering and that their future prospects are threatened because of the totally inadequate response to COVID-19 by universities?
In this week’s episode of the Blue Collar Conversations podcast, I speak to university students concerned about their futures. Student, Emily Bethell tells me that 'contact time' with her lecturers had gone from 120 hrs per term to just 4. A fall of about 96%!
Emily has been told that her work will be graded compassionately, but, as she explains, she thinks this is so that her, and her fellow students grades, don't suffer, and, as a result, the university won't be required to compensate her for the sub-standard education she is currently receiving.
"The way that universities measure attainment and measure that courses are being delivered to a high standard is through good results. We have been told that our exams are going to be marked compassionately - so doesn't that surely mean that we are all going to get good results? And, that would then put us in a position that we wouldn't actually have recourse to be able to make a complaint to the university" said Emily Bethell.
Bronwen Kershaw told me she’s just as concerned as Emily. "The standard of everything to do with the university and education, in general, has deteriorated, in what is supposed to be a high learning environment", says Bronwen. Reflecting on her decision to go to university Bronwen adds, "if I could go back, I don't know if I would've gone to university, or I don't know if I would've maybe thought about doing an online course because the amount we're having to pay for the service we're being provided is absolutely ridiculous".
It begs the question, should tuition fees be reduced to reflect the changes in the standard of the education students are currently receiving from their university? I think we can all agree on the answer to that question, YES.
The same survey that reported 90% of university students are concerned about their employment opportunities. There is also a growing awareness and appreciation of the benefits associated with Degree Apprenticeships.
A post-COVID-19 world is going to be different from yesteryear, and, as a result, will almost certainly demand new and innovative approaches to many areas of our lives. Further education will not be exempt from those changes. Therefore, to ensure that many university degrees remain relevant, and, importantly, good value, universities are going to need to accelerate the speed at which they revolutionise the services they offer. If they fail to do this, they may well end up with a student rebellion on their hands!
The survey was conducted by Jonathon Dawes, a Welsh Youth Parliament Member for the Vale of Clwyd.
On summarising the survey, Jonathon said: "The survey had over 500 respondents from rural Wales to inner cities and gave me a clear insight into how young people view this topic. The main thoughts on this topic being that reform is needed in terms of flexibility of courses, as well as cost being a big issue.
The results show that more and more young people are favouring alternatives such as degree apprenticeships as the best pathway into their chosen career amongst other things".