Debate of the week: Degrees of separation

by Emily

Pupils and their parents should stop focusing on the traditional three-year undergraduate degree as the natural follow-on from secondary education, according to a speech given by Lord Mandelson this week.

Lord Mandelson, the Universities Secretary, said that more students than ever would be rejected from higher education institutions this year - something that we at First Tutors have expressed our concern about in previous blog posts.

Speaking at a conference in Nottingham, Lord Mandleson proposed that students who miss out on a university place this year should take up an apprenticeship or college place instead. He also dismissed concerns over funding cuts in higher education - something else that we have protested against - saying that funding places to accommodate every university hopeful is not the way forward, and the economy will benefit from more young people taking up vocational courses.

How does this fit in with the Government's well-publicised target of sending 50% of school leavers to university? Is this the beginning of a huge U-turn in higher education policy?

Work-related learning is fine, of course, but it is a very different proposition to, say, studying history at a redbrick university. If that is what a student wants to do, then they won't be happy on a vocational course. And vice-versa!

Pupils should be able to study what they want to rather than being shunted from one type of educational programme to the other to suit the government. The likes of Lord Mandelson must stop using our children's futures as pawns in their transparent political machinations.