Robert Halfon, Chairman of the Education Select Committee, mentions Sutton Trust’s evidence submission in an article for the Times on the inquiry into the value for money in higher education
Universities should be about education, skills and employability, and addressing social injustice. Our higher education sector frequently delivers excellent academic results, but tackling our economy’s skills gaps and equipping our graduates to go on to highly skilled and better paid jobs should be a central goal. We no longer live in a society where university can just be about intellectual fulfilment — it must be about skills, and gaining the right skills to fix our productivity problem. Degree apprenticeships need to be more widely available, particularly in STEM skills gaps, and we need more women going into these subjects.
Universities need to offer courses which prepare students for work. Nottingham Trent, for example, offers work placements for all its students and has 94 per cent of graduates either employed or engaged in further study six months after. Nottingham Trent is also one of the top recruiters of undergraduates from low-participation neighbourhoods.
Universities also must do more to ensure the socially disadvantaged climb the ladder of opportunity. The Sutton Trust’s evidence submission to our inquiry said that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to graduate with £57,000 worth of debt, £7,000 higher than typical students due to a higher maintenance loan. When students are facing such debts, it is vital their degree is worth the money they paid for it. This is brought into sharper relief when disadvantaged students are less likely to attend top universities, more likely to drop out of university, and more likely to get lower qualifications than their wealthier peers.