Student loans have been controversial since they were first introduced. Most recently, concerns have been raised about whether students have been made sufficiently aware of the rates of interest and how best to manage their repayments.
According to a spokeswoman for the National Union of Students, speaking to BBC News education correspondent Sean Coughlan*, financial difficulty is the “number one reason that students drop out of education”. Those whose parents can’t afford to provide extra support often work long hours in addition to their full-time studies – if they can find a job. If not, some are turning to pay day lenders to make ends meet, saddling themselves with extra debt at sky-high rates of interest.
So it’s not surprising that some young people are beginning to wonder if higher education is really worth it, and are abandoning hopes of a degree in favour of joining the job market. This is a shame, since higher education can lead to:
- Higher earnings – the average graduate will earn over £100,000 more during his or her working life than someone with 2 or more A-levels who does not continue into higher education
- Increased employability and skills development
- Reduced exposure to unemployment
- Greater life satisfaction**
But there are other ways. A Degree Apprenticeship allows the learner to work in a full-time, salaried job while also studying for a degree and professional qualification. Their learning takes place on their employers’ premises, so there’s no need to travel. And they won’t have to pay a penny for their higher education, now or when they graduate, as their employer covers the cost, with help from the government.
One of the challenges faced by students on conventional degree courses is finding suitable work experience, without which they will find it hard to get a job when they graduate. With a Degree Apprenticeship, work experience is built in. The programme is designed in partnership with the employer, and learning is tailored to the employee’s own role within the organisation, so that he or she can apply what they learn in a practical way as their knowledge grows. Individual learning needs and preferences are taken into account, with a range of different teaching techniques, including workshops, one-to-one coaching, appreciative enquiry and online learning.
According to one student:
“This direct learning from the course has been applied in my everyday job functions… my confidence has grown immensely and I have now got experiences in areas that would never have been possible without undertaking this leadership degree.”
Contact Uni@Work to find out more, including information about Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy.
** BIS Research Paper No.146