Students ‘reject FE because of the sector’s image’

Young people are being put off further education because of its poor reputation and fears that they will have less chance of getting into the career they want, according to new research.

The report, released by the Department for Education, is based on a study of more than 1,400 university applicants.

It reveals that university “was the first and only option” that 75 per cent considered. Of those who had thought about other options, more than twice as many considered an apprenticeship (38 per cent) compared with further education (15 per cent).

Of the remainder who had not considered an apprenticeship or studying at an FE college, half (51 per cent) reported that these options would not lead to their chosen career, according to the report, which was released last week.

More than one in four (27 per cent) had not considered FE or an apprenticeship due to concerns over the quality of the courses, according to the survey, which was conducted by a specialist youth research agency in 2015.

Reputational issue

Around one seven, 16 per cent, agreed that “further education doesn’t have a good reputation”.

The research, which looked at the influence of finance on decision-making over higher education, shows that “financial concerns remained a secondary consideration for applicants overall”. It adds: “The desire to improve employment opportunities, achieve the qualification and pursue an interest in the subject were each more than twice as likely as considerations of cost to be rated as important to applicants’ decision to go to university.”

Degree apprenticeships ‘a game-changer’

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said: “The research contains some interesting and important findings but its main sample is taken from students who made Ucas applications in 2015. In order to genuinely judge perceptions of alternatives to university, it’s worth looking at a wider sample.”

He added: “The data of the research is also an issue. England was a very dominant residential university model for higher education but there has been rapid development and growing interest in degree and higher apprenticeships as an alternative. It is important to find better measures of quality, outcomes and value for money.”

Commenting on the findings, Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The world has changed dramatically since the survey, and the game-changer has been the arrival of degree apprenticeships with no debt and the opportunity to earn while you learn.”

He added: “As employers review and change their recruitment strategies for graduates and apprentices in response to the [apprenticeship] levy’s introduction, the jobs market is changing fast and young people need to consider their options very carefully”.

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