Choose your University and course by its employability and salary ratings…

Mashup ahoy ! Like a premonition one of the first Mashups to hit the main street has arrived. The HE choice website called http://bestcourse4me.com/ was recently launched.  David Willetts, Shadow Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary, has been promising this type of web resource since January 2009 and it is now here. Comparing the salary and employment status of different courses and universities might be interesting, but will it help young people make positive career choices. As always what is behind the figures ? A useful summary of some of the surprising results are in this blog http://www.statusq.org/archives/2010/02/24/2739/ which is written by a friend of the websites owners.

 Many issues about this website:-

 It was promoted by David Willetts as being worked on in conjunction with Microsoft, but now promoted as being in conjunction with Ros Smith and Steve Edwards computer entrepreneurs  (Although still listed as contributors there is now no mention of Microsoft on any press release)

David Cameron likes it !  http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2867656/David-Cameron-backs-website-that-aims-to-get-more-teens-into-university.html  and so does the Sun http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2866157/Education-under-Labour-day-2-Trevor-Kavanaghs-blistering-verdict.html  Must be the first time a website on choosing University courses has made such a splash in which is commonly thought to be Britain’s favourite paper (Copyright Sun Newspapers !)

Introductory Video spoken by Andy McNab (SAS Hero) http://greymansland.com/andymcnabnews/andy-mcnab-articles/andy-mcnab-in-the-sun-my-view-about-a-new-campaign-to-help-more-teens-get-to-university/

 In a strange link the other paper which carried some weighty reporting on it was the Financial Times, which also mentioned the related promise to put the careers service “Back on Track” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c5b5042a-21ae-11df-acf4-00144feab49a.html  Interesting comments on A level Law being “less than ideal” for top universities…

 With the push this website will get from the press,(or at least certain sections of the media), and its apparent value in working out which course provides the biggest bang for your buck, be aware of this website as you, or your colleagues, will be asked about it before too long !

 Obvious questions to ask include:-

 Will this resource help prospective students make better career choices in HE ? Or add even more to the confusion felt by some students and parents ?

What about the needs of the mature student, do these figures apply to them in equal number ?

Is being able to talk through such results still necessary or can students just use the website to choose their course, as recently suggested by John Morgan, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional ?  (although to be fair I do understand that the reporting of his comments do not reflect his actual view and might have had some undue emphasis put on them which did not support their use)

One obvious problem is that 6 months a not really a valid time interval to get anything clear and positive about graduate career paths across all professions and areas. In fact according to this resource if you want to be employed after your degree Media Studies is a much better bet that Chemistry… Although obviously as an adviser I would not be letting such a result go by without putting some serious balance on it.

 This is one issue I think we need to be aware of. It is what Angela McFarlane of Bristol Uni has termed ‘techno-romanticism’. Briefly summarised as ‘give the students the tools and they can fly because they are all Digital Natives’. Sometimes the more traditional skills in Careers work are still valuable and can be transferred to the digital area.  Some of the approaches might need to be changed such as networking skills and how they are used comparing the approach of face-to-face to screen-to-screen. (or phone-to-phone !). However we cannot put the genie back in the bottle and Web 2.0 careers advice will be part of the future mix.

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8 sources of finance for University study

As an adviser I’m often asked about what financial help is available for students wishing to study at University. Although the main resource is Student Finance England there are other sources which are often missed. So in the best tradition of top ten lists, (even though there are only 8 in this case), here are the top 8 sources of finance we need to ensure is considered and explored.

1. Loan for Maintenance

2. Maintenance Grant

3. Bursary

4. Scholarship

5. Job (both before the student begins study and also issues re: part-time whilst studying)

6. Family (often known as the Bank of Mum and Dad but can include other people)

7. Savings/Borrowings

8. Sponsorship

Even if students are aware of some of these resources it is always work checking how much they can get and the costs of paying any loan back. In recent research people commonly underestimate the maximum value of loan and overestimate future repayments. Bursaries and Scholarships are another area where many people are unaware of what is available. To find out what students could get go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinancecalculator where it is possible to can find out what each University could offer.  The issue with Sponsorships are that they can be difficult to obtain and some companies now prefer to offer them to students after their first year of Uni study.  They also tend to be in certain areas, such as the Military, which can be an ethical issue for some students or in specific occupation fields such as Engineering. Packages on offer can be excellent and not just focused on money, (management training and career exploration can also be part of the package), but I do encourage students to check out the commitment involved and ensure they realise and are happy with what will be required as their side of the deal.  If you want to read more about this whole issue of finance and HE an interesting recent report is “The Role of Finance in the Decision-making of Higher Education Applicants and Students” – you can download a copy from the link below http://www.dius.gov.uk/~/media/publications/B/BIS-RP-009

Brief summary and links to Higher Ambitions – Future HE plan for UK

HIGHER AMBITIONS – The future of universities in a knowledge economy

A Brief Summary

Britain still has too few people who have the ability actually going to University. More able but educationally disadvantaged pupils should have recognized fair access routes into University

UK participation rate in HE has gone from 7th in the OECD to 15th since 1998. 75% of UK 2020 workforce have already left school. A percentage of the 6 million UK workers who have Level 3 qualifications but no HE experience should be engaged in Higher Education to raise skill levels.

Increase diversity of HE students through range of access methods to study. More part-time study; vocationally-based foundation degrees; work-based study and more study whilst living at home must be made available.

Clearer routes from apprenticeships to advanced apprenticeships and new technician qualifications into foundation degrees and other vocational higher education programmes should be made.

Growth in HE cannot be met by more 3 year full-time courses and we cannot continue growth of public funding of Universities as we have done

To ensure that all those who have the ability to benefit can get access to higher education there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

1)    We will improve the advice and encouragement that students receive earlier in their education with respect to setting their sights on university.

2)    New university admissions procedures to assess the aptitude and potential to succeed of those from poor backgrounds.

3)    Consider action that could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from under privileged backgrounds.

4)    expand new types of higher education programmes that widen opportunities for flexible study for young people and adults and reflect the reality of the modern working lives.

The Government is committed to the enhancement of locally accessible higher education, through innovative partnerships between universities and further education colleges, and by support for new local higher education centres under the New University Challenge initiative. This could be good news for the Somerset University partnership !

To support universities in making an even bigger contribution to economic recovery and future growth there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

 

5)    Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to devise new funding incentives to develop HE programmes that deliver the higher level skills needed’

6)    Universities, employers, HEFCE and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to join and identify and tackle specific areas where university supply is not meeting demand for key skills. All universities expected to describe how they enhance students’ employability (This information should help students choose courses that offer the greatest returns in terms of graduate opportunity.)

7)    Business expected to be engaged, active partners with universities, not passive customers.

8)    A review into the future of postgraduate provision to be concluded

Need to strengthen the research capacity of our universities, and its translation into economic impact via 3 Key Proposals:

9)    Tighter fiscal constraints and increased competition from other countries will require a greater focus on world-class research and greater recognition of the potential benefits of research concentration in key areas.

10) Establishing strong new incentives to increase the economic and social impact of research.

11) Support stronger long term relationships between business and universities.

 

To promote excellent teaching for all students in HE, with universities competing to attract students on the basis of the excellent service they provide via 2 Key Changes in this area:

 

12) All universities should publish a standard set of information setting out what students can expect in terms of the nature and quality of their programme. (Via unistats as mentioned here: https://headviser.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/which-is-the-best-university-to-study-history-in/)

13) support universities’ work to strengthen the role of the external examiner

To further strengthen the role of universities at the heart of our communities and shared intellectual life, and as one of the key ways in which we engage with the wider world via 3 Proposals

14) Build on the contribution that universities have made, in partnership with Regional Development Agencies and local business, to regional economic development

15) Champion the international standing of our universities (Currently there are 340,000 foreign students in the UK from 239 different countries; the UK is second only to the USA as a destination for such students.)

16) our universities to be world leaders in the growing market in transnational education based on e-learning. (UK higher education to remain a world leader in online learning, and grow its market share by 2015 via university-private sector partnerships)

 

To ensure that our universities continue to maintain excellence, even under tighter public financial constraints

We need to nurture an HE system, responsive to the demands of both undergraduate and postgraduate training, embedded and integrated in a wider education and skills framework and capable of equipping all students with the capabilities and confidence to prosper.

Growth based so heavily on state funding cannot continue, that is why the development of a diverse set of funding streams is important if the quality of higher education is to be maintained and improved. Universities will need to seek out other sources of funding, from overseas sources as well as domestic ones.

Our world class universities are unique national assets, and must be recognised as such. Along with this recognition come reciprocal responsibilities. We need to treat these world class institutions for what they are, and the institutions themselves need to recognise their own obligations to UK undergraduates, in terms of excellent teaching and fair access on merit and potential, regardless of family background.

In future the burden of financing higher education’s diversity of excellence will need to be more equitably shared between employers, the taxpayer, and individuals.

17) A review of the fees structure in English universities will be launched, as promised at the time of the establishment of variable fees for full time undergraduate students in 2004.  The focus of the review will be the objectives of sustaining genuinely world-class institutions and fair access to universities, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

A strong university system is essential to a country’s economic success and the vibrancy and depth of its intellectual and cultural life. Universities embody both our values and our aspirations. They play a huge role in our communities through the provision of cultural and sporting amenities and in passing on and preserving a set of

shared societal values, including tolerance, freedom of expression and civic engagement. They shape how we engage with the rest of Europe and the wider world.

Link to Full report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf

 

Link to Summary report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions-Summary.pdf

HE opportunities after access courses for Adults

I attended the recent higher education opportunities day for adults who had completed their access courses in Somerset this week. Excellent day with 10 providers of HE attending, Universities such as Bath, Bristol and Plymouth etc plus those FE colleges offering HE, such as Trowbridge College which offers a BSc in Social Work. A good buzz about the day and it was interesting to hear people’s journeys which had taken them to this place. Spoke with prospective HE students from 18 years of age to… well a bit older (!) and it did remind me of the true value of the work we all do.  Got a nice writeup in the local paper which might encourage more adults to explore this as an option. http://www.chardandilminsternews.co.uk/news/4709099.Student_boost_from_university_open_day/

Perhaps this type of event could be make into more of an awareness raising event for local communities wherever it takes place. Good to see so many HEIs coming into the community. I do realise many do this but unless you see it yourself it is easy to forget what happens. After the exciting side of choosing possible careers that some HE options might lead to, the big issue was funding and how it might be managed alongside the other circumstances of the students. Hopefully the advice they received from the various attendees  would have helped them to answer these questions.

Qualifying for the Future – article in New Stateman

Although this was produced earlier this year, it is an interesting document. With a forward from Edge, It covers such wide and varied fields as discussions from the FutureLab initiative and our understanding of what Schools, Colleges and Universities could be, information on how to market your institution from the Head of the Marketing Communications Consultants Association, analysis of the training offered by the MoD, a word of caution from NAPO, about how we need more education with the prison system to prevent reoffending,  how getting young people involved in their education helps them with learning to lead, (and I must disclose that this does feature one of my schools in Somerset, Wells Blue School !), Dress Codes for schools, what do they mean ?, and engaging parents  to promote a love of learning. This document finishes off with a round table meeting of the way forward amongst a select of the good and the great. Interesting reading. http://www.newstatesman.com/pdf/futurequalifying09.pdf  Having some knowledge of guidance work within the prison system, and the work of Edge this can give an insight into a wide range of work and career related issues.

Higher Education guide – from Connexions in the West Midlands

It is interesting that such minisites as http://www.heguide.org.uk are now appearing. They do provide a useful summary of the HE options and can be promoted by the Connexions Services secure in the knowledge that it ties into a more generic approach to promoting the options at level 4 and above. At it is not tied to any provider it should be seen as impartial and even-handed in what it does.   There seems to be two points of view for this kind of work. One is that it replicates info which can be found elsewhere on the Web, not least from UCAS of course, or indeed other provider such as the local Lifelong Learning Network, (although they are coming to the end of their funding now).  The alternative view is that there is so much info out on the web that it does confuse people and websites such as this one can be a useful starter to progress through what be available.  Perhaps with the increase in students attending university within their regional areas this sort of locally promoted website might grow. Interesting times…

A website to help research your study subject

This is the first in an occasional series of websites which I’ve found useful (but are not always well known about). I’ve found this website a useful resource. It can be used with students  who might just have got their GCSE results and are now looking to go onto 6th form study, possibly considering which subjects they might finally take. Or you could use it with students looking at a Diploma or another vocational or occupational course that would still allow them to go onto a degree should they choose. Alternatively a student might be halfway through their studies and now faces completing the UCAS form to apply to University. What help is available for them ?
If you have every wanted to find out about a subject in more depth you probably use the internet, but it can be difficult to find useful, reliable info about a chosen career area even if you use Google. Well now there is a website which has gathered the best of the web for you, and arranged this over the main subject fields covering degree areas from Aeronautical Engineering to Womens Studies. Have a look at this and see if it helps progression with  career choices http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/
There is even an Internet Detective course available to help you sort out the gold from the dross http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/detective/ Everything is free and quality controlled by a national team of lecturers and librarians from UK universities. An excellent resource I think