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.

Erasmus – one way to meet your life partner ?

If you haven’t already heard about the Erasmus project, (which for lovers of acronyms stands for  European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, although one suspects the name came first, followed by the rational. ), or have tried to promote its rational to students to seek out new lands and meet other people while studying at University the following website might be useful. Although one of Erasmus’s  aims was to promote closer working between universities across Europe and build on links leading to enterprise,  it is normally the student exchange which is the main reason people have heard of this project.  Although the main facts about what Erasmus is are clear and simple sometimes you need a story, or personal testimony, to enhance this approach to people. The power of Narrative can be key in this area.  One site that gathers personal testimony of students experiences of Erasmus can be found at http://mobi-blog.eu  which allows students to share their Erasmus stories.  Although some of the posts are in the original language of the individual student many are in English and if not, Google will kindly offer to translate the page.  Although one Erasmus presentation I attended at a recent HELOA meeting said that 1 in 10 of the students taking part had found their life partner through taking part in such an exchange, I’m not sure how scientific that result actually was !

Speak to someone about Higher Education – or just look at a website ?

Getting advice about Higher Education is an important thing, but who makes sure the advice students get is impartial and independent?  Lots of people have opinions and thoughts about HE, but how helpful is it with the people giving the advice being trained?  Some people do relevant training via their professional organisation, or by attending university events.  However in Somerset we are putting 10 of our advisers through the new Higher Education Advisers Certificate run and validated by London South Bank University. This is a Masters level programme and builds on the skills and experience of our staff that between them have many years of working at this level.  Indeed we do have staff who already give HE advice to undergraduates and graduates, (via other contracts), but have never been able to have this aptitude certified.  Such an award will be in addition to the specific careers advisory qualifications they already need to be a Careers and Skills Adviser.  At Connexions Somerset we feel it is important to build on the skills of our staff and develop our ability to help people make positive HE choices. As we know Higher Education can be expensive, involve commitment of time, and also applied academic effort, which means that good advice on this option is important to ensure that students can benefit from the opportunity. There was an interesting related article in the Guardian about this whole issue of speaking to someone who is able to offer professional advice and guidance on this area, compared to just looking at some websites and deciding in isolation.  I’m sure all tutors and staff in tertiary institutions would recognise the work entailed in this area.  On a personal level for prospective students I am quite happy for them to look at various web resources, log-on to assorted social networking sites and explore the various message boards that they might find useful, but would always encourage them to speak to someone who can give impartial and unbiased advice as well. In full disclosure Andy Gardner (pictured in this report), Heads up the ICG HE Adviser Community…not that I’m biased of course !  http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional

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

Does a pre–HE student receiving Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) have a clear idea of funding for University ?

Those of us who are dealing with students currently receiving EMA financial support and looking to go onto University may be confused about how this financial support would carry on at Uni.  Originally the Government plan was that if a student was already receiving EMA then they would automatically get a grant to study at University – this was the HESSG or Higher Education Student Support Grant.  Indeed as an adviser we were told to make sure that all EMA recipients were aware of the HESSG and it was seen as a key indicator of support for students in this financial situation to go onto Uni.  To a lot less publicity this policy has now been changed and although the government is committed to any student already receiving EMA progressing onto HE, they will need to go through the financial assessment again. According to the Minister this has been done to ensure that those people whose financial situation has improved since the original assessment are treated fairly as other people applying to Uni.  Although they do say that if the applicants’ circumstances are unchanged from the original EMA assessment then they will get a clear quote of the financial support they can expect.  In light of the fact that perceived financial worries are the biggest factor between students applying and actually attending university this would seem to be another example of Government change affecting what we have been told to promote.  Goodbye HESSG apparently! For more information contact Student Finance England http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/Gettingstarted/DG_171577

Feedback welcomed from the HEAdviser community – Comment by Colin, a Careers Adviser in the South East

A student asked me a question the other day which I would welcome the thoughts of other members of the Community on. She wanted to attend an Open Day at Swansea University, but was worried about the cost : she lives with her mum, who is on benefits. She asked me if there was any way the College could help her with the cost of this trip. 
Now, we encourage students to go to as many Open Days as they can, don’t we ? Some schools and Colleges organise group visits. This student was “pushing her luck” a bit by asking for financial assistance for her mum to go with her ( ! ) but leaving that aside, she has a point. Is there not a danger that with rail fares as steep as they now are, some students from less – well – off homes will be at a disadvantage.

I did ask this student if she had a Young Persons Railcard, and she claimed to have no knowledge of such a thing (after all, how many young people would travel by train on a regular basis ? )  although it would have saved her quite a bit of money. I also know, from my sisters accounts of driving her daughter to several Open Days and interviews, just how expensive it can be – and my sister, the widow of a Merchant Banker, is not short of a bob or two. I remember when I was invited to interview at Cardiff back in the 1960’s, my mothers comment was “well, you can’t go, can you?” In the end, I did some extra paper rounds to raise the fare.
I do not think FE Colleges or Schools should be distributing largesse, but I would welcome colleagues comments on their experiences of supporting students who would like to go to Open Days but would genuinely have difficulty finding the money. No – one at my College appeared to have even considered the issue, and everyone I spoke to thought it should be somebody else’s problem.
Any useful observations welcome
Regards
COLIN 

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