Michelle Donelan denounces a long “obsession” for students who go to university

Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan said the UK has had an “obsession” with all students going to university for decades.

Speaking to the Commons Education Select Committee, she said: ‘I think there has been an obsession in this country for decades that college is the goal for everyone and that we should push everyone into college and that will be the answer to everything.

“While the reality is that it should be much more individual-based. The state shouldn’t be telling people what’s best for their lives, it should be opening doors, creating those opportunities.

She said apprenticeships and diplomas are ‘high quality’ options and the government wants students to be better informed of the choices available to them.

Social mobility czar Katharine Birbalsingh said last week that society should develop a broader understanding of social mobility than the poverty-to-rich narrative of working-class students entering Oxbridge (PA)

In response to the Times Education Commission’s suggestion of a broader professional and academic ‘British Baccalaureate’ to replace A-levels, Ms Donelan said: ‘What we really need to be careful about is not to confuse things more.”

She added: ‘What we are trying to do as government is to simplify the options available so that students and employers know exactly what qualifications mean, what level they are at, what value they are at. they can bring to work. ”

Ms Donelan also commented on social mobility czar Katharine Birbalsingh’s statement last week that society should develop a broader understanding of social mobility than the story of poverty of working-class pupils entering Oxbridge.

“She said that there is no single definition of social mobility in terms of results; so if you come into Oxbridge and you’re the first in your family to do so, that’s an absolutely incredible achievement and everyone should aim for the stars and pursue their goals,” she said.

“Equally, if you’re the first in your family to go on an apprenticeship, that’s just as well, and so I think she was trying to say, ‘Let’s not say that some form of social mobility is better than ‘another’, because really what it’s all about is people achieving success, progressing in life, achieving their own personal goals.

Ms Donelan said she had been ‘very clear’ it was unacceptable for universities not to return to in-person teaching before the pandemic, saying she had personally called the vice-chancellors after receiving complaints of students and parents.

Only a “stubborn minority” refuse to return to face-to-face teaching, she said, calling their stance “illogical”.

Asked about record levels of student complaints – with 2,763 in the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education’s annual report in May – Ms Donelan said the government was tackling the problem ‘head on’ by through “on the ground” investigations by the Office. for students.

She said sometimes complaints about teaching were about a “rogue faculty” rather than the entire institution.

Ms Donelan said policies such as minimum entry requirements for student loans – with a proposed threshold of two Es at A level or passing English and GCSE maths – would prevent “lazy social mobility” where pupils are pushed into college courses they are not academically ready for.

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