Rishi Sunak vows to crackdown on ‘rip off’ university degrees

The government have announced university courses with high drop-out rates and poor employment prospects will be subject to strict controls.  

Following a warning from senior lecturer, Michael Knowles, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has released a statement outlining plans to introduce new measures to help students get more out of their university experience as it was revealed 30% of graduates don’t progress into highly skilled jobs or further study 15 months after graduating.

three girls in graduation gowns hold their caps in the air

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also estimates that one in five graduates would be better off financially if they hadn’t gone to university.

Mr Knowles, who has taught at many universities across the UK in his former roles as Google digital skills trainer and senior lecturer in marketing at Newcastle University, claimed university qualifications were in danger of becoming completely worthless.

In a statement Mr Knowles said: ‘Just a matter of weeks ago, I released a press statement claiming that university degrees were in danger of becoming worthless, prompted by the new that global giants such as Kellogg’s, Google and General Motors were removing degree requirements for most jobs.

‘The Prime Minister’s statement about ‘rip off’ degrees has backed these claims up and is a huge wake up call for universities who have been short-changing their students for far too long.

‘It used to frustrate me to witness students being under served because their course material was so outdated, and they were basically leaving university completely out of touch with the realities of their chosen industry.’

Against this backdrop, the government have announced plans to reduce the maximum fee that universities can charge for classroom-based foundation year courses to £5,760 – down from £9,250 currently.

These are an additional year of study designed to help prepare students for degrees with specific entry requirements or knowledge, such as in medicine and veterinary sciences. However, research shows that too many people are encouraged to take a foundation year in some subjects like business where it is not necessary.

Following the announcement, Rishi Sunak said: ‘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,’ Mr Sunak said. ‘This will help more young people to choose the path that is right to help them reach their potential and grow our economy.’

However, one story that has emerged from the University of South Wales at the end of last week, has cast concern on the government’s decision. James McFarlane, 35, who has recently graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Management, reported that his university experience was lifechanging in helping with his career and personal life.

Before starting university James was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, which became apparent when he was promoted to a new role. He said: ‘I was working for Cardiff Council covering maternity leave as a community engagement officer, which involved working with 15 clients simultaneously.

‘It got to the point where I couldn’t switch off from work. All I could think about was what I had to do in work the next day and it was impacting my life so much that I had a panic attack. I spoke to my manager and was referred to occupational health.’

Although, after leaving this position James found a job working in care and decided to progress his career by gaining some qualifications in the field. Following this, he completed a foundation year in health and wellbeing and then applied for the full degree.

Now, James works in private care with patients with brain injuries and claims he owes his position to the degree he obtained from the University of South Wales.

James said: ‘I am looking forward to celebrating graduation and I am considering further study, but it will definitely be in health and social care. I can see myself doing this job for life.’

Image: Leon Wu


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