Apprenticeships are now being pushed by the UK Government as the ideal alternative to university degrees that are deemed as “rip-offs”, following research by the Department for Education that found three in ten graduates are limited in their career progression opportunities. This will also include the capping of said degrees, to decrease their prevalence in the UK higher education landscape.
This move also comes as a reaction to rising student debt, which currently averages at £45,600 for the cohort starting in 2022/23 according to data from the UK Parliament.
Further, this decision will also include making apprenticeships easier for companies to offer, the implementation of a digital platform to connect students and employers and simplifying the apprenticeship application process.
Announcement from the Government
This decision was recently announced through a press release on 17 July, where it has determined that universities that have been found to provide low outcomes and poor employment prospects for their graduates to be subject to strict control measures.
They explained that this was decided due to many graduates not having clear prospects after graduating, leaving them in significant student debt and degrees that often do not help their employment.
It has also been announced that for classroom-based foundation courses, the maximum tuition fee has been lowered to £5,760 – down from £9,250. This is also in hopes to reduce enrollment in these courses as they believe that foundation degrees are unnecessary for some degrees such as business, which many students are currently enrolled in.
In the press release, Rishi Sunak stated,
“The UK is home to some of the best universities in the world and studying for a degree can be immensely rewarding.
But too many young people are being sold a false dream and end up doing a poor-quality course at the taxpayers’ expense that doesn’t offer the prospect of a decent job at the end of it.
That is why we are taking action to crack down on rip-off university courses, while boosting skills training and apprenticeships provision.
This will help more young people to choose the path that is right to help them reach their potential and grow our economy.”
Further, the government has proactively enhanced access to quality training for youths and adults by implementing new T Levels, Higher Technical Qualifications, and a network of 21 Institutes of Technology. Collaborating with employers, they aim to offer diverse apprenticeships in exciting roles. Furthermore, plans to broaden UCAS enable students to apply for apprenticeships alongside traditional degrees, broadening the spectrum of high-quality options available to thousands of young individuals.
Student Debt in the UK and Apprentice Employment
Amidst rising concerns due to the cost-of-living crisis, rising student debt has also become a more prevalent issue. This combined with not having career prospects is surely not ideal. Thus, this plan is being implemented to combat that in hopes to lower the average student debt to £42,900 for the cohort starting in 2023/24.
As an alternative, the government will push apprenticeships as a more attractive option for students to gain qualifications. Offering more apprenticeships, it is aimed that fewer students in the UK will end up with student debt from tuition and university fees.