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Is it time to introduce super courses for university degrees?

By Muhammad Dawood and Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

Studies vary but regardless of the particular bit of research or report you look at, the general picture you get about the suitability and appropriateness of education in the UK is of a system that is inherently flawed. Of course, there is much to be commended and praised about the general quality of education in the country.

What’s more, you certainly couldn’t expect teachers - from early years to university level - to work any harder or show a greater level of commitment to their students. However, some nagging doubts remain about how successfully the curriculum and wider system prepares young people for the future. In recent years, it has been the reformed GCSEs and A levels that have seen the most scrutiny.

There have been widespread concerns about how the reforms have resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum.

Many people also worry that the focus on academic subjects alienates many students for whom a vocational curriculum might be more appropriate. There are fears that our curriculum and exam system essentially force square pegs to be pushed through round holes, but it’s not just at compulsory school age where the problems lie. So, is it now time to introduce super courses for university degrees? Too many graduates don’t get jobs in their chosen field Again, the figures vary from study to study, but one thing is crystal clear – far too many graduates leave university and find it impossible to find a job in their chosen field or career.

According to a CIPD study in 2017, as many as 52% of students don’t end up in ‘graduate jobs’ within 6 months of completing their degrees.

Many more are forced to take jobs that are mismatched to their degree specialisms and/or academic ability. A skills gap remains in the workplace Businesses have complained for decades now about what employers perceive to be a worrying skills gap in the workplace.

Put simply, they complain that school leavers lack the skills that are necessary to succeed in the workplace.

Indeed, the same concerns also extend to those leaving university too, not just school. For all the letters after their name that a degree gives a candidate, recruiters are consistently complaining that graduates often lack hard skills, such as writing proficiency and public speaking; as well as vital soft skills, including teamwork and leadership qualities. Add to all of this the fact that many graduates leave university with a £50,000 debt around their necks and begin employment with starting salaries that fall way below what they were expecting to achieve. It’s clear to see that everything is not rosy in the garden when it comes to university degrees. Super courses: the answer to the problem? So, could the answer lie with a new approach – super courses? Many graduates are simply not able to find a suitable job in their respective field, either through the scarcity of opportunities, or the age-old ‘catch 22’ issue of lack of experience.

So, many graduates end up working in a different field entirely or are forced to take low paid jobs. This represents a brain drain and a very disappointing return on investment (especially when you consider the size of the debt that many students leave university with). The notion of super courses would be to introduce more university level courses which offer a combination of study and apprenticeship.

For example, this could be 3 years of study and 2 years of employment, or 4 years of study and 1 year of work. This would be help students to have a much better kickstart to their careers after leaving higher education.

Not only that, the ‘apprenticeship’ element would better prepare students by developing a range of both hard and soft skills.


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2- While equality in education improves, Obstacles in the workplace remain- Myth of meritocracy

3- Should I pursue an advanced degree in education

4- Alternative to attending college after high school