With a new regulator, Brexit, and more changes to student finance, Universities have been a hot topic of conversation and concern as we enter a new year which looks to be full of ups and downs.
In the last general election, the student vote swung dramatically in favour of Labour, and the government are therefore keen to still win back the student vote amidst the uncertainty.
Prof Anton Muscatelli, Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow University spoke to the Guardian newspaper about being worried about a significant fall in applications to Glasgow from research students from the EU, which is down by 9% for the 2017-2018 year from the year before.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed in these negotiations,” he said, and: “They are such an important asset, we really need to watch the rhetoric around Brexit.”
In the last year there were many misconceptions abound in the media, so to bust the myths and uncover the true state of University today, here are some new research findings that were published in the Guardian:
More poor students are going to University
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the poorest students in the UK are slightly more likely to go than they used to be – 11.3% of students come from the poorest areas, combined with 9.6% six years ago.
More women are going than men
According to the same study, the gender gap is getting wider, with 55% of women entering higher education compared to 43% of men.
Women are outperforming men
A study from the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex, showed that in first year exams, women do better than men.
Results also showed that those from middle class families do better than those from working class families, and white British students do better than black British ones.
Dropping out or graduating?
Research from Rand Europe and LSE Enterprise for the European parliament’s committee on culture and education compared admissions systems, which found that the UK had the highest graduation rate, at 51%, against the average of 37%.
The Essex research looked at a sample of students starting undergrad courses between 2007-2008 and 2014-2015, and found that 20% of students didn’t complete their degrees at first attempt.
Of the 80% who graduated and passed, 16% got a first class degree, 48% a 2:1, and 23% a 2:2. Poor and ethnic minority students were most likely to drop out.
Does a degree mean an earning advantage?
Data from the Department for Education shows both university and degree subject are major drivers for future earnings. The Sutton Trust report told us that men with degrees earn 28% more than men without, and that for women the gap is much bigger at 53%.
There is however some social class discrepancy, as the Sutton Trust also revealed that private school students have average starting salaries £1,350 higher than state-educated classmates, regardless of whether they do the same course and come out with the same grades.
Are all graduates likely to get jobs?
The latest analysis from the Higher Education Longitudinal Survey showed that just under ¾ of graduates were in full-time paid work three and a half years after graduating. 2.3% were believed to be unemployed.
The lowest unemployment rate was amongst those who studied medicine or dentistry, at 0.6%, and those least likely to be in full-time work were biological scientists at 72.3%, however they were more likely than others to still be studying.
Which graduates are getting the best salaries?
From the data from the Department for Education, it was revealed that those who took business, economics and law courses were among those with the top earnings five years after graduation.
At the bottom end of the spectrum, art and design graduates from courses with the least successful financial outcomes averaged out as earning as little as £10,000 per year.
Students more accepting of debt
Once the changes from the 2015 budget are implemented, the average debt will rise to £40,000. Those from poorer families are more likely to take out maintenance loans, along with those on arts-based courses.
Official research from the Department for business innovation & skills in November 2015 suggested that students’ aspirations to go into higher education have not necessarily been dented by higher levels of debt, and that the concept of debt is becoming more widely accepted.