The value of A levels & degrees and a general moan about the cost of education

When the coalition Government announced the rise in tuition fees there was public outrage, with student protests, riots and walkouts all over the country. This rise in fees was considered a betrayal of the Lib Dem party as they had previously stated they would never support such a move, and at one time even advocated free university places. Obviously power went to their heads.

As a student myself it can be said I’m biased over this issue but I would like to point out that the government encourages more and more people to stay on at school and has introduced a policy which prevents 16-year-olds from leaving education as they have to stay on until 17. There are several issues here but I shall stick with the tuition fees to stop this post from spiraling into a garbled moan about everything.

Making students remain in education for longer but raising university fees seems a bit contradictory to me as those who stay on after 16 to do A levels generally aim to attend university. Mixing them with students who would have left at 16 given the chance not only threatens class sizes and the danger of some students distracting others as they don’t really wish to be there, but you have to ask, what is waiting for them at the end of their A levels if they do not wish or cannot afford to go to university?

Of course, these 16 year olds could choose to go to college or start an apprenticeship, but not all will. A few of my friends completed their A levels and then decided university wasn’t for them, but there are no jobs available. Employers either look for 16-year-old school leavers or university graduates. One friend was told as she had A levels she was over qualified and shouldn’t she be at university? Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

If this was a problem in my year (who, thankfully, just missed out on the tuition fees rise) then surely it will multiply next year as dozens of students with A levels struggle to find employment. One option is to move back a step, and maybe take up an apprenticeship, but if this was what they wanted to do they would have gone to college at 16. Are A levels really deemed useless except to universities? And now, even universities are questioning the validity and reliability of A levels, with many preferring to base their offers on their own entrance exams or interviews.

Anyway, despite trying not to, I have gone off topic. The rise in tuition fees meant that last year applications for university places rose as people fought to get a place before it became unaffordable, and this year, applications have dropped by 7.7%, with a 10% decrease in English applicants. The number of applicants still outweighs the number of places available but you have to ask where are these A level graduates going to go now? Many may view their A level accomplishments as moot and start again, have they wasted two years of their lives? Bare in mind that’s at least two more years they aren’t working or paying taxes.

University is further made unaffordable for many as the Government cut EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) which saw poorer students through A levels or college and gave them a chance to go to university. I was never eligible for EMA but the difference just a little bit of monetary help made to some was staggering if you consider the expansion of their life choices and opportunities.

Maybe guides to money management would be a good idea as there are a few costs of university life you don’t think of as a first year. It may become a post in a couple of weeks 🙂

One good thing could come from this. Maybe the value of the degree will increase? And rather selfishly I think this will benefit me as I avoided the higher costs and may still benefit from the outcomes of less university applicants.

No Entry and No Exit – the struggles of opposite generations

I heard on the BBC the other day that people continue working after they retire. The news reader discussed this in a state of surprise, as though they didn’t think this was necessary. But think about the reducing pension schemes and the increasing life expectancy and it makes perfect sense.

I’ve often heard it said by students, including me, that by the time we reach our 60s or 70s we won’t be able to retire, and that’s assuming there are enough jobs to go round in the first place! You’re forever hearing about ‘benefit scroungers’ who don’t work, but looking at the number of applicants per job it’s practically impossible to find work. Especially since any qualified graduate is generally told they need experience in order to get a job they trained for. However, apply for a lower-grade placement and you’re ‘over qualified’. How do you win?

What can this generation do if every opportunity has a barrier stating ‘no entry’, and the retired continue to work, leaving no room for ‘fresh blood’?