Would some undergraduates be better off not going to university?

16 January 2018

The Economic Affairs Committee considers how England's education and training system compares with Germany and Ireland’s and whether there is too much emphasis in England on sending young people to university to study for full-time three-year degrees.


Tuesday 16 January in Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster

At 3.35pm

  • Dr Robert Hancké, Associate Professor, London School of Economics
  • Dr Ellen Hazelkorn, Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit

At 4.35pm

  • Martin Hottass, UK Skills Partner, Siemens
  • Nigel Whitehead, Group Management Director and Chief Technology Officer, BAE Systems
  • Martin Donelan, Regional HR - UK, Rolls Royce

Likely questions

Questions the Committee are likely to ask the first panel are:

  • Professor Marginson told the Committee he thought that the mix of academic and technical education derived from the character of a country’s industry profile. Is the make-up of a country’s education system in response to the needs of its economy? 
  • The Open University said England’s productivity problem was as much about higher skills gaps than a lack of provision of technical education. How does England compare to other countries in terms of provision for lifelong learning?
  • Germany has an independent, overarching body with responsibility for quality in technical education and apprenticeships. Apprenticeships in Ireland are overseen by a national Apprenticeship Council. How does England’s apprenticeship system compare?

Questions for the second panel are likely to include:

  • Are there any other reasons why, apart from the money that will be generated, for the Government to sell the student loans book?
  • In 2016/17 around £13.5 billion was issued in new student loans, increasing the face value of the student loan book to £89 billion. Does the uncertainty over the size of repayments concern HM Treasury as the student loans book gets bigger?
  • Lord Willetts told the Committee that the scaled interest rate on post-2012 loans was brought in to get higher repayments from well-paid graduates. Was this the motivation?
  • Why is the Retail Price Index measure of inflation, which fails international standards and is no longer designated as a ‘national statistic’, used as a measure of interest for student loans?

Further information

  Image: iStockphoto

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