Theresa May (pictured on This Morning today) insisted that today’s young people could aspire to be Prime Minister without a degree as she unveiled an overhaul of higher education
Theresa May insisted today that young people could aspire to be Prime Minister without a degree as she unveiled an overhaul of higher education.
Mrs May said Sir John Major had reached No 10 without attending university and promoted her vision for better vocational education.
The PM told Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on This Morning her plans would make it easier for all youngsters to get on in life.
Mrs May – who visited a school in west London this morning – will unveil a year-long review of university funding later, saying it is not sustainable for Britain to have among the most expensive courses in the world.
She told This Morning: ‘For a long time I’ve worried about the fact that in this country we’re very good at saying academic education is good and for everybody, but we’ve never put sufficient emphasis on technical and vocational education.’
Some think that technical education is something for ‘other people’s children’, the Prime Minister said.
‘We’ve got to break this old fashioned attitude that there’s only one way through in education, and we’ve got to say, I’ve always believed that what we should say is ”what’s right for every young person? What’s right for every child?”
‘Because education can unlock the door of your future.’
The PM told Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on This Morning (pictured) her plans would make it easier for all youngsters to get on in life.
The proposed changes in Mrs May’s review are expected to mean some arts and social science courses become cheaper or shorter in future to reduce overall costs of university places.
But Tory MP Bernard Jenkin predicted the review would prompt only ‘evolutionary change’ and warned there would be no ‘big bang’.
Former Conservative education secretary Nicky Morgan said finding ways to ensure different courses charge different amounts was valuable but warned against changes that could undermine social mobility by only tweaking the top end fees.
In her speech, Mrs May will also insist it is wrong for university to be portrayed as the only option for many school leavers, vowing to boost vocational and skills training instead.
The speech is an attempt to respond to Labour’s promise to axe all tuition fees, at a cost of billions of pounds, that was backed by young voters at last year’s election.
Theresa May (pictured today at Featherstone High School in West London) will later condemn the ‘outdated’ idea that university is the best option for all school-leavers, in a speech that will challenge snobbery around skills training
The Prime Minister (pictured today with 18-year-old students) will unveil a year-long review of university funding later, saying it is not sustainable for Britain to have among the most expensive courses in the world
Mrs May (pictured today with headteacher Gerry Wadwa, centre, and her education secretary Damian Hinds) will announce her review of tuition fees
After speaking to student at Featherstone High School in Southall, today Mrs May said: ‘It’s been great listening to the students about their experience of making choices as to whether to go to university or do an apprenticeship.
‘What we’re doing today is announcing a review of higher education, of tertiary education, which is both about the whole question of the concern that students and parents and grandparents have of the cost of the debt that students get into when they go to university, the cost of fees and so forth, whether they’re getting value for money.
‘But it’s also about making sure that we have a system that enables students to make the right choices.
‘So for those for whom a technical education, a vocational education, or an apprenticeship is right, perhaps rather than going to university, that they’re able to be aware of the opportunities that are open to them.
‘And that we don’t see a sort of stigma attached to technical education, that people recognise that what’s important is what is right for every young person.’
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan today warned reforms needed to do more than help the best off by tweaking the highest fees, while senior backbencher Bernard Jenkin said there would be no major overhaul at the end of the review
Mr Jenkin told the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night: ‘I’m very happy for there to be a review, and some of these ideas may survive and some may not.
‘I’m sure there will be some evolutionary changes that come from this, but don’t expect a big bang.’
Ms Morgan’s concerns echoed those of Justine Greening, who was sacked as education secretary last month, and who has proposed a radical form of graduate tax.
Ms Greening told ITV’s Peston On Sunday yesterday: ‘I think that many companies that have STEM degree skills shortages will wonder whether it’s the right thing to make those degrees more expensive.’
She also stressed social mobility, adding: ‘Making sure that we don’t end up with a system where young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds will feel like maybe they ought to do one of the cheaper degrees, rather than doing the degree that they actually want, that will really unlock their potential and future.’
In a later blog post, Ms Greening proposed creating a Higher Education Fund to replace the current fee and loan system.
Ex education secretary Justine Greening (pictured today on Peston on Sunday) – who was sacked amid government tensions over tuition fees – questioned whether making science degrees appear to cost more was the right approach.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds (pictured yesterday on the Marr show) has suggested the review could make arts and social science degrees cheaper
Under the plan, graduates would pay into the fund for the full span of their current loan periods – meaning the wealthiest would pay more overall because their payments would not stop.
Ms Greening said because more money was entering the system the repayment costs could be lower than they are for today’s graduates.
She also endorsed a return of maintenance grants to support students from poor backgrounds.
The Government is launching a wholesale review of the post-18 education system and the funding of universities.
An independent team, which is expected to report early next year, will: Examine different fee levels for different courses, with the cost of arts and social sciences likely to fall; Consider publishing data on the likely financial benefits to students of different qualifications; Investigate the possible return of a student grant system; Look at two-year degree courses and part-time options where students can work at the same time.
The Prime Minister (pictured with husband Philip yesterday) is also expected to criticise the University funding system for leaving poorer students with the highest levels of debt
Mrs May will pledge in her speech in Derbyshire to break down the boundaries between academic and vocational courses. And she will say she wants to create equal access to university education – access not dependent on background.
Her comments mark a reversal of the New Labour target for half of school-leavers to go to university. The target is said to have led to higher drop-out rates, more courses that do not provide value for money and vast numbers of graduates ending up in non-graduate jobs.
Grammars ‘should get more cash’
Grammar schools should be allowed to expand to meet parental demand for more places, the Education Secretary said yesterday.
Damian Hinds wants to extend funding available to comprehensives for new classrooms and facilities to selective schools.
‘When it is possible for them to expand physically, I want them to be able to expand,’ he told The Sunday Times. ‘There are capital sources available for most schools to be able to do that when they want to.
‘I’m looking at how to also facilitate that for selective schools.’
There are 163 grammar schools left in England. A law passed two decades ago under Labour means new grammars are banned.
Theresa May wanted to repeal the law and create a new generation of selective schools, but she was forced to drop the plans amid fears that opponents on the Tory benches could scupper them.
Mr Hinds, who went to a Catholic grammar school in Manchester, also said he intended to lift a cap on new faith schools that means they cannot recruit more than half their pupils by religion.
Mrs May will say: ‘For those young people who do not go on to academic study, the routes into further technical and vocational training today are hard to navigate, the standards across the sector are too varied and the funding available to support them is patchy.
‘So now is the time to take action to create a system that is flexible enough to ensure that everyone gets the education that suits them.’
On university fees, the Prime Minister will say that she shares concerns about how the system is funded: ‘The competitive market between universities which the system of variable tuition fees envisaged has simply not emerged.
‘All but a handful of universities charge the maximum possible fees for undergraduate courses. Three-year courses remain the norm. And the level of fees charged does not relate to the cost or quality of the course. We now have one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world.’
Mrs May will criticise a ‘funding system which leaves students from the lowest-income households bearing the highest levels of debt, with many graduates left questioning the return they get for their investment’.
The review will look at ‘how disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, both from the government and universities and colleges’.
Last year Mrs May announced that students would not start paying back their loans until they started earning £25,000 – up from £21,000 currently.
It is estimated that around two thirds of students will never pay back their debt. The current system means loans are written off entirely after 30 years.
Some students face interest rates as high as 6.1 per cent.
‘Give students refunds for strike action’
Students should get compensation if their education is disrupted by strikes, the universities minister has suggested.
Sam Gyimah said it was up to individual institutions whether they paid compensation but students had rights that must be taken into account.
The University and College Union is planning industrial action starting on February 22 in a dispute over pensions. Mr Gyimah told the BBC: ‘By virtue of the fact students pay fees for their education they have consumer rights and I want universities to respect those consumer rights under consumer law and that includes compensation where they are losing out on their courses.’
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt accused universities of doing nothing to avert strike action over pensions.