Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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University places... a slow news week?

Sun, 22 Aug 2010

OK, perhaps that's a little uncharitable, but there have been a few heckles raised at poor A-level students who don't get university places. As ever, Mike Baker has a level headed commentary on the topic. Some of the selected highlights include the fact that 183,000 students are in clearing, compared to 135,000 last year, and that includes overseas students and re-applicants, as well as UK-based school leavers. 158,000 didn't get places last year. And also remember it's not the universities fault; they are capped as to the number of students they can recruit, receiving a penalty if they go over or under. And the coalition government cut the number of extra places from 20,000 to 10,000.

What is undeniable is that this is perhaps one of the most challenging years for students; increasing participation in HE for a limited number of places and a very difficult job market. Interestingly, there are a number of well qualified A-level students who don't get places and this seems to be attributable to either poor careers advice or academic snobbery (or both). Whilst we might want to go to the best university we think we can achieve, please please make sure you have an "insurance" place. Somewhere you can undeniably go if you really make a mess of things. In fact, think carefully about where you want to go. The Russell Group offer a certain type of education and not necessarily the best teaching. However the career opportunities are undeniable. Also, do you want to be middling in a class of extremely bright people, or top of a class of well qualified people. Students thrive in different educational environments.

And, briefly, its worth pondering what a private HE system might be like in the UK. BBC News have an interesting article on fees in the US where costs in excess of $50,000 PER YEAR for a four year course are common. The UK is good value in comparison! But if we did go for a part-private system, how many of our current students would opt for it? Particularly if they were guaranteed a place?

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Ken Field wrote at 2010-08-22 22:42:

And this is how stupid the government quotas are...Kingston's Faculty od Science was open to clearing for 2 days then they closed since at a Faculty level the places were full. However, GIS (and Geography for that matter) were not 'full' and could have taken more students. We are unable to because some other subjects in the Faculty have obviously over-recruited (by comparison). This measn that there may well be students wanting to do some subjects that are unable to because other courses have over-recruited. In our case, Geography and GIS are in the same Faculty as Sports Science, Forensic Science, Biomedial Science and Pharmacutical Science...subjects that recruit well. So I;m sorry if any students wanted to study with us this year...blame the government...and blame your peers for choosing subjects unlikely to do much for their career prospects!

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