Aim Higher - Why Foundation Degrees?
So you want to go to university but are not sure whether you can afford it? Career Advisor talked to Margaret Hodge about the 'Aim Higher' programme and access into university for students, no matter what their background, through a foundation degree.
You have publicly placed great stress on the aim of increasing the numbers of state school students who go on to university. Why is this and what are you doing about it?
We need to develop a fair education system where university places are awarded to talented young people, irrespective of their background. We know that if you come from a poorer family you have a one in ten chance of going to university, but if your family is in the top income group you have a three in four chance. It is important that we do something about this. Just because young people come from poorer backgrounds, it does not mean that they are any less intelligent. Indeed, we are probably missing out on getting some bright young people at our top universities.
At the moment nine out of 10 students who get good A levels go on to university. But we know that not as many very clever students from poorer backgrounds are applying for universities like Oxford and Cambridge as those from better-off families and we have to do something about this.
“Just because young people come from poorer backgrounds, it does not mean that they are any less intelligent. Indeed, we are probably missing out on getting some bright young people at our top universities.”
That’s why last month we set up the new Office for Fair Access. With this new body, universities will have to demonstrate that they are making efforts to attract more talented students from less well-off homes if they want to vary their fees. They will have to show they are providing extra financial support for students from low income backgrounds and will have to make real progress towards meeting milestones they have established to bring about a more inclusive student cohort. Merit and potential, not background and class, should be the key to deciding what university you go to. That must be good for the country if we want to make the most of our talented young people.
“Merit and potential, not background and class, should be the key to deciding what university you go to”
What does the ‘AimHigher’ programme consist of and how will it affect state school students and pupils?
Aimhigher is a campaign that provides young people and their parents with up-to-date information about higher education. It aims to improve the links between universities, colleges and schools and is of particular help to young people who may be the first in their families to go to university. It aims to knock some of the mistaken myths that many young people have that university is for other people, but not for them.
It gives you everything you need to know from how to choose a course, find the best college or university offering it, what sorts of grades you need, details about funding and students loans. It will generally help you to think about what is best for you in what can sometimes seem like a maze of possibilities.
You may have seen the Aimhigher Road show, with its five hi-tech trailers, which has so far toured more than 850 schools all over the country. Recent graduates are on board to tell you about what life at university or college is really like and answer any questions. Of the 80,000 pupils who saw the show 79 per cent said they would be interested in, or would definitely be going to university.
If you want to find out more, AimHigher can be contacted on www.aimhigher.gov.uk. The site gives information about pre GCSE and post GCSE studies and there’s also a section for your parents who want to find out more about what going to college or university can do for you. If you want to find out more about funding there’s also www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport.
You have recently introduced new Foundation Degrees to enable those not taking the traditional path to go university. How will they work?
Foundation degrees are a new way into higher education that combines study and work. They should provide young people with a passport to a job and I hope they will become very popular. The courses have to be developed with the close involvement of employers to ensure that you gain the skills they are looking for. Employers are crying out for people with the right qualifications combined with relevant work experience to fill their vacancies. Studying for a foundation degree will mean that you will be just the sort of person an employer needs – highly skilled with a good knowledge of your subject and the ability to get the job done from day ONE.
You can study for a Foundation Degree full-time or you can study part-time, learning while you are earning. Foundation Degrees are validated by universities but are offered in both Further Education colleges and universities. Armed with a Foundation Degree you’ll be able to move straight into work or you can spend a further year and convert to an Honours Degree.
A Foundation Degree may be a route for you if you want to start work now but study and develop new skills as well. These degrees are very flexible. You can study for the qualification full-time, which takes two years, or study part-time to fit in with work or other commitments. Foundation Degrees also offer you the chance to study from home, in work, through college, university or a combination of these, with an important part of learning taking place where you work.
There are 69 courses on offer at the moment and we are developing more. Courses range from e-business, aircraft engineering, retail technology and logistics, to property and construction or hospitality, leisure and tourism. Employers like Cisco Systems, KLM UK, Radisson Edwardian Hotel Group and Carlton TV have linked up with universities across the country including Newcastle, Leicester, Coventry, Essex and Warwick. There are lots of courses which can lead to jobs in childcare, the NHS or working in a school as a teaching assistant.
How do I apply for a place on these courses?
You can make an application in the usual way through UCAS if applying full-time, or direct to the institution for part-time. You will be eligible for the same student grants as any other student applying to higher education. Specific entry requirements are up to universities or colleges, but these are likely to include A-Levels, vocational A-levels, GNVQs/NVQs or an Advanced Modern Apprenticeship.
If the Foundation Degree sounds like the next step for you then find out more by logging on at www.foundationdegree.org.uk or call Learn Direct on 0800 100 900.