Sir David Bell, the Reading University vice-chancellor says that on the job training schemes for school leavers pose the biggest 'threat' to the higher education system. Universities are facing major competition from Britain's largest companies to recruit bright school leavers, according to Sir David Bell.
The number of firms hiring intelligent teenagers directly from school represents the biggest "threat" to the authority of the higher education system. In an interview with the Telegraph, Sir David said that on-the-job training was seen as an increasingly attractive option to 18-year-olds who want a good wage without being "saddled with debt".
The emergence of school leaver recruitment programmes poses a challenge to universities, which make extra effort to prove that a degree is a worth-while investment and is likely to lead to a better job in the long term. His comments were made after it was revealed that large numbers of employers were making positions available for students directly from school - acting as a cheaper alternative to hiring graduates.
In most of the cases they provide their own training allowing teenagers to work up to degree-level qualifications while earning a wage. Companies such as Siemens, British Airways, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Network Rail, Vodafone, Unilever and John Lewis all took on more school leavers last year. Sir David, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, said many universities see the rise of technology as well as online courses as the biggest challenge to traditional residential degree courses.
This is the word of Teenage:
The greater threat ‘if this is the word' is where employers choose to extend the ‘come in at 18' option and train them on-the-job. Although that is pretty small scale it is arguably a greater threat to higher education.
Ministers have repeatedly claimed that an undergraduate degree can add more than £100,000 to average earnings over an adult's working life compared with those who leave school with A-levels alone. But some school leavers were now taking the view that they can go into work in a company at 18 get on-the-job training almost certainly not saddled with debt of any sort with probably at the same age contemporaries are coming out of university be slightly better positioned in terms of immediate job opportunities.
These programmes were "small scale, but if they started to grow, that is more of a threat to university education just because you have a genuine alternative option at the age of 18". The utter competition among universities is now forcing many institutions to go to extra lengths to recruit the best students. This includes making "unconditional offers" to students - taking applicants on the basis of predicted grades without waiting for the final outcome of A-levels.
Reading University is trialling the approach this year, making almost 460 unconditional offers for September in accounting and finance, English literature, history, law, philosophy and politics - if students make the institution their first choice.
Students must have six or more A grades at GCSE as well as predicted A-levels of ABB or higher. It follows a related move from institutions like Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester and Queen Mary, University of London. As Critics have warned that move risks undermining the A-level system by allowing students to relax in the final six-months of the course without threatening their university place. It is also a risk damaging university standards by allowing poorly-qualified students to attend.
A university you all have to be very clear about quality. There is no-point in going in a race to bottom over here. We all are sensitive to our individual institutions' reputation.