Tories would swap ‘rip-off’ degrees for apprenticeships

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Last July, the government announced plans to ask the OfS to cap student numbers on courses that were “failing to deliver good outcomes for students”.

The Conservative Party estimated that the government would save £910m by 2030 if it scrapped courses that taught 13% of students.

It said this was because the taxpayer “offsets” student loans when graduates do not earn enough money to pay them back. The logic here is that removing courses that lead to lower earnings would result in less unpaid debt.

Chloe Field, from the National Union of Students, said using earnings to measure the value of degrees was “a poor metric, because things like race, class, gender, and disability have a much more significant impact on people’s wages”.

The Conservatives’ calculations are based on the assumption that 75% of the students who would have enrolled on those courses would go into employment or apprenticeships instead.

However, there is no limit on the overall number of students that universities in England can admit – so universities could recruit students on to other degree courses if some were closed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said this meant it was “unclear” whether savings from scrapping “low-value” courses would be large enough to fund the Tories’ expansion plan.

The Conservatives said its savings would allow the government to spend £885m on creating 100,000 more apprentices per year by the end of the next Parliament.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers welcomed the announcement, and it said it hoped other political parties would “match this additional funding”.

Chief executive Ben Rowland said: “Whichever party finds itself in government, there will need to be a commitment to encouraging more employers [to] offer apprenticeship opportunities.”

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