July News Digest: cap on ‘low value’ courses, fewer firsts, skills boost for generation Covid

Aug 3, 2023 | Home Featured, News, Sector & policy

Government pledges to cap ‘low-value’ courses, student accommodation shortages, fewer students achieve a first, record numbers apply to computing courses, and employers boost skills post-pandemic. ISE’s CEO Stephen Isherwood shares what’s caught his eye in the news this month.

Rishi Sunak pledges to cap the number of students taking ‘rip-off’ degrees

The government announced (or re-announced) its intention to cap the number of students on what it considers ‘low value’ courses, reported The Independent. The Guardian explained what the plans mean in practice as the announcement didn’t detail how the cap would work, just that the OfS would implement the policy.

Labour accused the government of attacking people’s aspirations by limiting access to degrees, reported The Guardian. Chief Executive of UUK, Vivienne Stern, warned the “Government should take care that political rhetoric does not damage individual life chances by putting students off going to university who would otherwise benefit”.

Nick Hillman of HEPI thought the announcement indicated the issues Conservatives will fight the next general election on.

Students face accommodation crisis

Universities will need to offer an extra 45,000 places to UK students by 2030 to match current demand as the number of 18-year-olds increases, said a new report published by the FT.

In a separate article, the FT also commented that UK cities are already struggling to provide enough student accommodation.

Accommodation shortages lead to rent increases and FE students in particular are struggling with the cost-of-living-crisis, reported the Guardian – and colleges lack the funds to support them.

Universities can, and are, increasing international student recruitment to boost their levels of income. A fifth of university’s income is now generated by international students, reported The Guardian.

University applications down but computer science rates increase

UCAS published data on current university application levels. Fewer 18-year-olds have applied so far this year, down 2% year-on-year, but rates are still above pre-pandemic levels.

And more school-leavers than ever are choosing to study computing, says The Independent. The subject still struggles to attract female students though – only 18% of applicants are female.

Whether on a computer science course or not, some students are putting their IT skills to not-so-ethical uses. Over 400 students are under investigation for using GhatGPT to cheat, reported The Tab.

At the other end of the student life-cycle, a third of graduates gained a first in 2022, reported the BBC, but overall the proportion who achieved the top grade fell for the first time in 10 years.

Covid pandemic still impacts graduate and intern development

KPMG announced they have boosted training for student hires who had fewer opportunities to develop their workplace skills during the pandemic, reported The Telegraph.

Summer internship programmes are running again, but employers struggle to provide interns with the in-person office experience they want as managers continue to work from home, reported the FT.

A global perspective

Last month, the BBC reported the US Supreme Court ruling against the use of affirmative action in university admissions. Now, the US Education Department is to investigate Harvard’s preferential treatment of applications from the children of alumni, reported The Guardian.

The economy in China is still struggling bounce back from the pandemic, reported Reuters. This means that graduates in China struggle to find graduate level jobs as record numbers left university in June and July, reported the FT.

You can also catch up with our industry’s news in the June News Digest.

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