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History of students going to university ‘beginning to erode’

The ‘long history’ of British students going to university is “beginning to erode,” due to rising fees and poor university business models, say leading education figures.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, the president of the Association of Colleges, John Widdowson, and its higher education policy manager, Nick Davy, claimed that Britain has made a mistake in not investing in professional and technical education, and now universities have gone ‘too far’ into higher education, and cannot ‘adapt’to using a different model.

Davy stated a need for a shift to colleges, saying that ‘if we’re going to develop a technical and professional stream, it’s the colleges that have got the expertise and the links with local employers and labour markets.’

Whilst university applications are rising consistently, with 2015 seeing a record breaking 590,000 applicants, Davy says it will not be until April 2016, when the first students to be paying £9000 a year “get the bill through the door,” that people will realise the cost of university.

He continued to say that there has been no reaction yet because “young people don’t understand debt the way older people perhaps do.” Once this debt hits, Davy claims that “that long history of going away to university in England, I think that will begin to erode,” although “not completely, because it’s still very much a part of our culture.”

When asked for comment, Students’ Union Education Secretary Michael Spence expressed concern for all areas of higher education, saying that “as fees begin to rise, I fear that prospective students will be put off attending university. However, unlike Mr Davy, I fear that many will not find alternatives in Further Education because the sector is severely underfunded and many colleges are likely to close in the next few years.”

Recent research by House of Commons library staff showed that £1.6 billion could be cut from college budgets next year if the government continues its aim of a 25 per cent cut to the services. This would be the equivalent of closing four in every ten higher education colleges. However, in the Autumn Statement, it was announced that school and college funding would be protected this year, and that colleges could choose to become academies, saving on average £317,000 a year on VAT.

Tags: higher education, tuition fees, university

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