A-Level Students 'Being Forced into Costly Degrees' Yesterday Was a Day of Celebration for Teenagers Now Planning Their Future at University. but Nick Timothy, a Former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Theresa May, Has Called for a Radical Overhaul of Higher Education. Ryan Wilkinson Reports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

A-Level Students 'Being Forced into Costly Degrees' Yesterday Was a Day of Celebration for Teenagers Now Planning Their Future at University. but Nick Timothy, a Former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Theresa May, Has Called for a Radical Overhaul of Higher Education. Ryan Wilkinson Reports


Byline: Ryan Wilkinson

THE "unsustainable and ultimately pointless Ponzi scheme" that higher education has become is burdening graduates with debts and must be radically reformed, Theresa May's former chief of staff has said.

Nick Timothy said many school leavers who received their A-level results yesterday are being "forced" into expensive degrees that fund a "gravy train" for university bosses.

The adviser warned that without radical reform the system will continue to "blight young people's futures", leaving them carrying "millstone" debts of PS50,000 - the majority of which will not be paid off.

Branding conventional wisdom that university degrees are best for the economy as mistaken, Mr Timothy called for the use of technical qualifications such as apprenticeships to be expanded as part of a new system.

Education is the responsibility of the different governments across the UK nations, but both tuition fees and the challenge of boosting skills training so young people stand a chance of winning the jobs of the future are major issues in all parts of the country.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Timothy said: "Today, hundreds of thousands of young people receive their A-level results, and it is difficult not to worry about their future.

"The fortunate among them - those studying at the best universities and taking the best courses - may go on to prosper.

"But those who choose the wrong institutions and courses will see little benefit, while those who do not go to university - still a majority of young people - will be neglected."

A July report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found most graduates will still be paying off student loans into their 50s, and three-quarters will never clear the debt.

"We have created an unsustainable and ultimately pointless Ponzi scheme, and young people know it," Mr Timothy said.

Mr Timothy recognised that it would be too expensive to scrap tuition fees entirely and clear graduates' debts, calling Jeremy Corbyn's pledge to "deal with" the issue "wrong and deceitful".

He also dismissed the introduction of a "graduate tax", paid for once in employment, as it would still encourage students to take unproductive degrees in the expectation that others will pay.

In Wales, under the recommendations of the Diamond Review, from September 2018 students will take out a loan to pay their tuition fees but receive PS1,000 towards living costs. The worst-off young people could get grants of up to PS8,000.

Mr Timothy supported a system proposed by education policy expert Professor Alison Wolf of offering a "single financial entitlement" to school-leavers.

As well as university degrees the repayable funds could be spent on technical courses with fees capped at a lower level. …

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