The Committee of Public Accounts report HC693 issued on 6th June entitled “The higher education market” highlights serious concerns that “Teenagers in England are having to make choices about university on the basis of too little information” which the report concludes is due ” in large part to insufficient and inconsistent careers advice”.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said it was “deeply concerning” that the government’s approach to the higher education sector was letting down students.
“The advice available to help students, in the overwhelming majority of cases teenagers, make informed choices is inadequate,” she said.
The following extract from the report criticises the Department for Educations strategy on careers advice and makes a recommendation for more feedback to be presented to the Committee in October 2018.
“Most students are teenagers when they apply and are too often not getting the right advice and support they need. Decisions made in year 9 can have a serious impact on the choices young people are able to make when applying to universities and yet we were not convinced that the myriad of careers initiatives generated by Government are leading to demonstrably better advice for individual pupils.”
“Young people are not being properly supported in making decisions on higher education, due in large part to insufficient and inconsistent careers advice. The substantial financial commitment required and wide variation in outcomes from higher education mean prospective students need high-quality advice and support to make decisions that are right for them. The complexity of the market and the volume of information available makes it difficult for prospective students, most of whom are teenagers, to assess the quality and suitability of higher education institutions, raising questions over whether student choice alone will drive up the quality of provision. A wide range of other factors influence students’ decisions, such as marketing by higher education providers, the reputation of institutions and their perceived prestige, a student’s family background, as well as the location and costs of travel and accommodation.
High-quality, impartial careers advice is critically important, but the support available to students in schools is not good enough. The Department acknowledged that it needs to improve the quality of careers advice for young people. It told us that its Careers Strategy, published in December 2017, will have a “real impact” on young people’s lives and help students make choices which best fit their own aptitude, skills and preferences, but it is not clear how or whether the department will ensure high quality careers advice at school level. It is too early to judge its success, but action is needed quickly and the strategy should be robustly evaluated to ensure it is achieving its aims.”
Section 2 of the report finally makes the following recommendation :
“The Department should write to the Committee by October 2018 with details of progress it has made with its careers strategy and the impact it is having. It should set up an evaluation framework to enable it to assess progress.”