Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 21, 2023 • VOL XII
Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 21, 2023 • VOL XII
Home News Government plans to cap admission to “low-value” degrees

Government plans to cap admission to “low-value” degrees

Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Speka, reports on the government's plans to cap admissions to degrees deemed "low-value".
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Government plans to cap admission to “low-value” degrees

Sunak via Wikicommons

Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Speka, reports on the government’s plans to cap admissions to degrees deemed “low-value”.

Rishi Sunak plans to crack down on degrees that do not have a high proportion of students getting professional jobs, pursuing professional studies, or starting businesses. This policy would restrict student applications to certain courses that are believed to be “low-value”. Courses with high drop-out rates are on the chopping block which encompasses a wide range of courses but are believed to largely affect the arts and humanities.

Sunak’s plans of capping admissions to these degrees are expected to come into effect in 2024-25, which critics believe effectively limits the ability for students to flourish in a myriad of careers. The NUS calls this move a “driven attack on degrees in such fields as the arts and humanities, which could be amongst the courses facing severe cuts under the plans.”

“Too many students are being sold a university education that won’t get them a decent job at the end of it.”

Rishi Sunak

Sunak, a holder of a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics himself, states in a Tweet that “Too many students are being sold a university education that won’t get them a decent job at the end of it” and that to remedy this he is “cracking down or rip-off degrees”. He also maintains that students are being used as “cash cows” by universities that are especially in need of funds.

Some are especially concerned about what this means for working-class groups that do not have the same access and opportunities within higher education as privileged students. A spokesperson for the Labour Party says that “After 13 years of failure in education, all the Conservatives and this out-of-touch prime minister have to offer are yet more barriers to young people’s aspirations- rather than working to raise standards and outcomes.”

Questions also abound about uncertain definitions of what a “low-value” degree means. Some courses with high drop-out rates still lead to professional jobs, such as Computer Science which has one of the highest drop-out rates in the UK. Just the same, law holds a high drop-out rate, yet is ranked highly in employability. Similar trends in Medicine, Mathematics, and Engineering spark ambiguity in Sunak’s definition according to students.

Nevertheless, Education Minister Robert Halfon states “It focuses on individual courses that have poor employment outcomes, that is not woolly at all.”

Despite these ambiguities, critics think that cuts will mostly affect art and humanity courses at Universities with a large percentage of working-class students who do not have the same access to professional earnings.

The Office of Students (OfS) can not be ordered to cap student numbers; however, Halfon clarifies “We’re guiding the OfS to use the existing powers that it has to ensure that students who come out of university get good skills and get good jobs at the end.”

Critics have mentioned that Halfon has not given a definition for what constitutes a “good” job.

If implemented, the OfS can penalise or cut individual courses where fewer than 60% of students go on to further study or professional work within 15 months of graduating.

“The sympathy for these poor gullible students sold ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees is of course performative nonsense.”

Deidre Heenan

Deirdre Heenan of the Irisn News mentions “The sympathy for these poor gullible students sold ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees is of course performative nonsense. The underlying reason for this move is the financing of higher education and the growing pile of debt on the Treasury books. They have already changed the terms of student loans and employment thresholds so that graduates have to pay back more, sooner.” Yet, the government is adamant that if implemented this will improve the UK’s economy.

The government’s plan could go into effect in the 2024/25 academic year.

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