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Universities mis-selling courses

(142 Posts)
LornMowa Tue 04-Jan-11 14:08:53

Having read a post in Money Matters and knowledge of 2 other people whose lives have taken a turn for the worse since becoming a student, AIBU to think that Universities should be much more discerning about who is allowed to take courses.

I think that by enticing people whose earning prospects are unlikely to be enhanced by a degree to become students, some universities are as reprehensible as other leaches such as loan sharks.

To the poster on MM, I do hope that you can improve your prospects and resolve your current problems.

JaneS Tue 04-Jan-11 14:50:57

Yes, I completely agree. However, universities were partly put in this position by the previous government's stupid idea that 50% of people should expect to go to university. We don't need so many universities, but once they are here it is hard to blame individual universities for wanting to keep their courses running and keep jobs for their employees.

BuzzLightBeer Tue 04-Jan-11 15:12:03

YABU, I think. Why should learning only be about earning prospects? And durely its up to students themselves (and maybe their parents for kids right out of school) to find out how much the course will cost etc?

By discerning it sounds like you are saying that only rich students should be allowed to go to university?

LornMowa Tue 04-Jan-11 17:46:01

No, I am certainly not saying that only rich students should be able to go to university. May I give an example of the type of practices that I think should be curtailed?

Someone I am acquainted with, who had very poor literacy skills, did a "Law Degree" at one of our lesser universities. she has now left that institution with a Pass Degree and a whole heap of debt.

I think that in this case, any love for learning would have been better sated by evening classes at her local school not by a time consuming and expensive university course. IMHO that university was guilty of mis-selling.

JaneS Tue 04-Jan-11 17:58:21

Hmm. I suppose here's where I struggle.

My literacy skills are quite poor, so by your standards my degree was a waste of time - only, I had to do it in order to get to where I am now.

What bothers me isn't low literacy, it's people who maybe don't really want to be at university. Some people already know almost enough to do the jobs they want to do - they shouldn't have to spend three more years in education.

singingcat Tue 04-Jan-11 18:04:18

I think many people are uninformed about how useful their degree is, for example the OP's friend who got a not-very-good law degree. You have to realise, as someone with a qualification like that, that if you want to go into law you are going to be competing against Cambridge firsts. But there is a slight embarrassment about simply admitting that there is a pecking order and some universities are more desirable than others.

Slightly different, but the postgrad law conversion providers now churn out so many law 'graduates' that the number of available jobs is tiny in comparison. It's not hard to get in, but it's very competitive to get a job afterwards. It is quite misleading, but I suppose people have to be responsible for their own choices.

tinkertitonk Tue 04-Jan-11 18:18:21

OP, should Next be more discerning over who should be allowed to buy its dresses?

JaneS Tue 04-Jan-11 18:56:21

Not a parallel, tinker, is it?

LornMowa Tue 04-Jan-11 19:03:18

When it is very easy to understand the product that you are buying, then obviously there is less need for regulation. So no I don't think that Next should be more discerning about who they sell dresses to.

I'm sure that they are more discerning about who they allow to have a Next credit card because their profits would be at risk.

I just feel that there should be much better protection/guidance for those consumers of education who do not have the insider knowledge about what "return" they can expect from their time at Uni.

A1980 Tue 04-Jan-11 19:10:02

Someone I am acquainted with, who had very poor literacy skills, did a "Law Degree" at one of our lesser universities. she has now left that institution with a Pass Degree and a whole heap of debt.

LornMowa I agree entirely! I'm a lawyer myself and I've seen it happen to people i've known on courses. One girl in my class had 2 a-levels grades D and E and she had a 2:2 law degree that took her 5 years to get as she failed the first year twice. The degree was from a lesser university, perhaps one of the worst ones we have. Her literacy skills were very poor.

It isn't just universities that do it. she managed to get a place on the legal practice course (LPC) at a private law school not withstanding her poor qualifications. The reason being, the LPC fees are currently over £10,000 and when we did it, they were about £7500. The colleges do not give a shit whether you get a legal job or not as they get the hefty course fee out of you. Sadly she failed the entire course and all she got out of trying to embark on a legal career was tens of thousands of debt.

I'll probably be flamed for saying it but not everyone should go to unviersity and I don't think it's elitist to say that someone with D and E grades at A-level perhaps ought to look for an alterantive career to law. it's just common sense. Law is difficult and demanding and extremely competitive and if you can't cope with the courses you wont cope with the job.

BuzzLightBeer Tue 04-Jan-11 19:10:03

I do understand, but its rather nanny-ish,isn't it?

cat64 Tue 04-Jan-11 19:13:51

Message withdrawn

A1980 Tue 04-Jan-11 19:16:00

It may be a little nannyish but I'd rather be nannied that end up thousands in debt for nothing.

Perhaps realistic careers advice when you get your a-level results is in order and if they still choose to go on then on their own head be it.

Medical schools takes no prisoners. Their entry requirements even stipulate A's accross most of the board at GCSE and no re-sits permitted. That's understandable.

I think Law should be a bit more rigorous too for entry requirements but you can get on some LLB's at lesser universities with two EE's at a-level!

BuzzLightBeer Tue 04-Jan-11 19:19:27

Yes, maybe better careers advice, I'm just always ratehr suspect when people complain about too many people going to university. Its not as if historically it has always been the brightest and best minds who went, it was usually those with the cash, and if we want less people to go it seems to me like thats what we'll go back to?

tinkgirl Tue 04-Jan-11 19:37:45

better careers advice is certainly going to be a key factor, ensuring that the careers advice is impartial is part of this as well. careers advices given out by 6th forms / colleges tend to lean towards the uni route as it looks good on the prospectuses of the 6th form / colleges to say that X number of their students have progressed onto Uni. It is also important to realise that it is usually a teacher who gives this out who came via a uni route and who doesn't have any idea about apprenticeships or other routes available.

The previous govmt wanted 50% to go to uni because we have to compete on a global level and are facing competition from emerging countries like India who have more gifted and talented students than we have gradutes.

Uni's are held accountable and are fined by the govmt for students dropping out of courses / over recruiting etc. so they do, by some degree, choose who they take but as with everything, some uni's are better at this than others. Some uni's run courses which they know will be popular but will financially support other courses which are less popular, but it mainly comes down to bums on seats.

Unless people start getting impartial careers advice this will not improve.

venusandmarshmallow Tue 04-Jan-11 21:10:06

I think that the information many universities have on their websites about employment prospects are extremely misleading. They continue to encourage new students into areas where recent graduates are unable to get employment in a relevent area.

tinkgirl Tue 04-Jan-11 21:12:51

alot of uni's are not specific enough with the information which they give i.e. 78% of gradutes are in employment 6 months after graduating. hmm how many are working in tesco's or telesales???

mippy Tue 04-Jan-11 22:32:40

I didn't think for a second about earning power when i went off to be a student. I wanted a good reason to leave home and something nice to study in a better town than where I lived.

Oh, and I had pretty much fuck all careers advice at school. I was given help choosing my alma mater in sixth form, and coached for an entrance interview, but at 18 I had no idea what I was going to do next.

LIZS Tue 04-Jan-11 22:39:36

what is unreasonable is the culture that suggests everyone is entitled to a degree level of education. Whether they are really able to achieve the standard or not, whether the course gives them skills and/or knowledge which will meet the demands of the workplace. Even 10 years ago I was interviewing candidates who thought they were the bees knees but whose qualifications were barely worth the paper they were printed on amd were mediocre candidates for the role at best. There is now little stigma to dropping out if students make an inappropriate choice and acceptance of indefinite debt if they do graduate.

siasl Tue 04-Jan-11 23:09:33

At the risk of getting flamed I think many British universities are not being truthful about career prospects for their students.

I work as a Lawyer for a multi-nationals regional head office in London (Europe, Middle East, Africa). I've been involved for 7 years with the graduate recruiting process across a number of areas, not just lawyers. I'm not British and didn't do my degree at a UK university.

I'm increasingly appalled at the quality of students from many British unis. Frankly the knowledge base, writing, communication skills etc of many beggar belief. We've given up bothering to interview students from most of the sub Russell Group unis and a number of the RG unis are now on the "auto-reject" list. There are probably 5-10 unis that will possibly get you an interview; you need a first, straight As at A level, internships etc. A post-grad qualification differentiates.

Grade inflation is out of control. Everybody gets a 2:1 or better. In some unis pass rates at 2:1+ are over 70%. A levels are no better. A B grade at A level is starting to look like failure!

Competition is fierce. We get huge numbers of applications from graduates all round the globe, in particular fantastic grads from emerging countries. The quality/quantity of applications simply didn't exist even 5 years ago.

I feel really sorry for many of the students. They really believed their uni degree was going to set them up for a "high flying" career. They often apply a year later as Admin Assistants. They hope that this might open up an opportunity but it won't.

Students need far more info on what courses to take, whether to go to uni at all and what sort of careers they can expect afterwards.

TheFarSide Tue 04-Jan-11 23:29:38

I think the 50% at university target was partly about a desire for greater equality. Our education system is grossly class ridden and apprenticeships are looked down on by many parents, teachers and employers.

If we valued apprenticeships and vocational qualifications more as a society, then kids would be more likely to choose them over uni.

As it is, about 90% of the kids I see in year 11 express a desire to go to university because they have picked up the vibe that university is better than apprenticeships, and apprenticeships are for dummies.

They get this info from unenlightened teachers and parents (obviously not all teachers and parents are unenlightened).

As an impartial careers adviser, I fight a losing battle to get kids to even consider the idea of an apprenticeship - they think I am giving them bad advice!

Anyway, there is a slightly growing trend (started by Labour and being continued by the Tories) to promote qualifications acquired while working and paid for by employers - including apprenticeships and foundation degrees. So maybe in another 30 years or so we'll have overcome our snobbery about some qualifications being "better" than others.

Hammerlikedaisies Tue 04-Jan-11 23:49:51

And some bright spark will reinvent the polytechnics.

One size does not fit all in education.

thumbwitch Tue 04-Jan-11 23:52:34

Are there any apprenticeships left? I didn't know they still existed as such. I think they're a hugely better idea than some degrees, especially for students for whom book-learning is not their strong point. Why push them into a nonsensical degree when they can get good qualifications from an apprenticeship, that is more likely to lead to a job than a paper education?

sakura Tue 04-Jan-11 23:53:52

I agree with the OP, but I disagree with Farside because I'm guessing its not the kids of the rich who will end up being "encouraged" to go into apprenticeships...

Higher education should be accessible to all; however I do think that students should be better advised before going to uni. In other words, better career advice.
I also think unis have to take some responsibility for keeping the standards high. They should turf inadequate students out in the first year, saving everyone a lot of time and money. The students will then know that uni wasn't for them, but still had the chance of a shot at it.

More advice should be given about what a degree can actually do for you. If you have an innate love of learning, for learning's sake, then a degree is the perfect option. But students are told a degree will get them a high-flying job. THis is a lie in many cases.
Subjects are more important than grades, it seems to me. So you should only go for a subject you "enjoy" if you have a real passion for it and cannot imagine wanting to study anything else. Otherwise practical degrees: law, economics, engineering, are what I'll be advising my DC to take, if they want to go to uni.

I will warn them that a degree doesn't have as much value as it used to, there's no guarantee of a job, it's a risk so again, it goes back to having an innate love of learning, doing it for the sake of learning.

But I'll never discourage my DC from going to uni because it's not just about the career prospects, is it. IT's about the independance, an unique opportunity to mingle with people from all over the world, broaden your horizons and expand your world view in a way an apprenticeship never will.
I think, overall, the more children that go to uni, the more enlightened the general population becomes, and that's a good thing.

TheFarSide Wed 05-Jan-11 00:16:10

Which part do you disagree with Sakura?

There are some good quality apprenticeships about with high entry requirements that would suit bright kids (rich or poor). Furthermore, some of the companies that take on apprentices sponsor them to progress onto higher education courses. This happens a lot in the engineering industry, but also in other areas like accountancy. So, there is still the option to broaden horizons by meeting interesting people while having your degree paid for and avoiding massive debts.

Also, due to the rising costs of university education, more youngsters are studying at their home town university so they can continue to live at home, so the independence argument doesn't always hold.

Unfortunately, as I said in my post, our education system is a victim of snobbery and lots of people (including you?) see apprenticeships as inferior to university.

Also, no self respecting careers adviser would ever tell a student that a degree will get them a high flying job. Students in my area get good impartial advice from careers advisers, but unfortunately kids spend far more time with teachers and parents, many (but not all!) of whom perpetuate the notion that (1) university is the only desirable way forward and (2) apprenticeships are for the less bright.

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