LibLink: Simon Hughes – Make university an option for all

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem deputy leader and author of The Hughes Report on access to higher education, recently had an op-ed in the Daily Express outlining the thoughts he sets out in that report.

Here’s a sample:

Last week I submitted my report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, with more than 30 recommendations on what can be done to improve access to higher education.

These do not focus only on university admissions but on what can be done to encourage young people to think about university from an early age.

This is crucial because from the age of 13 children are having to make decisions that will have an impact on the options available to them at the age of 18 and above.

I recommended that careers advice should begin as early as primary school, with parents and other adults coming into school to talk to children about their jobs and careers.

This is not to say that children at this age must know what they want to do when they are older but there is no reason why they should not be exposed to what is out there.

Schools should have careers advice sessions with parents as well as pupils so parents can be fully informed about the choices available to their children and how to support them.

As well as knowledge of courses and careers, children also need to know about basic financial management in order to help them make decisions about their future.

Financial education should be included in the curriculum for personal, social and Health education.

As part of its higher education reforms the Government has set aside £150million each year for scholarships to university.

I have argued in my report that these scholarships should go to schools so that every school can award scholarships to its students to go on to university.

This will demonstrate to everyone that there is a ladder from their school into university.

You can read Simon’s piece in full here.

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This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • mike cobley 2nd Aug '11 - 2:07pm

    It seems to me that advising primary school children on future career paths narrows options rather than widening their horizons. It is personal experience which allows a person to fully reckon the best educational path for themselves – perhaps Simon should have been emphasising a widening of access for all ages. But what bank is going to offer a student loan to a 50 yr-old?

  • I expect the Cable/Willetts proposals to be thrown out before the next election, almost certainly with one or both of those ministers heads. The HE reforms are an absolute disaster for education in Britain and sooner or later enough MPs are going to realise this, and realise that their parliamentrary careers will be forfeit if nothing is done, to insist on a complete rethink.

  • No-one said anything about career paths- I can’t imagine teaching under 11s about career paths, and doubt these proposals involve kids making plans at that age. Just giving them an awareness of the sorts of jobs out there, plus what you need to do at school to get them. Career paths only start to get solidified at 13

  • Tim Holyoake 2nd Aug '11 - 3:38pm

    It’s a worthy report and it makes many interesting observations. However, despite having noted that he spoke to the Open University during it’s creation, it does little to suggest what can be done to support life-long learning. As it happens, the once bastion of the second chance, the OU, will be more than trebling its fees for new students from the Sept. 2012 intake – a far higher rise than for the traditional universities in percentage terms. If you don’t have a degree already, then the good news is that loans will be available for the first time – regardless of how old you may be. However, if you are studying for a second degree, maybe to help change career or just for the love of learning, then the equivalent of £5000 fees per year (whereas at the moment the fee is around £1400) is going to put a sizeable proportion of its current catchment off. Which will be a shame for the “fun” learners like me but a disaster for the career changers.

    It may well have been outside of Simon’s remit to consider this – but someone, somewhere needs to think about the damage that the almost total removal of ELQ funding under both the last and current government is doing.

  • WHy do we want more people going to university anyway, instead of less?

    Apparently some labour under the delusion that this somehow promotes ‘social mobility’, when all it does is say to the 50% or the minority who don’t have degrees ‘you’re worthless’ whilst simultaneously making the degrees themselves pointless.

    The whole point of a university course is that not everybody is capable of doing it.

  • Rob, because one of the few world class things about the UK are its universities and, given that traditional manufacturing is dead, the knowledge economy represents the one of the few means for the UK to recover. Also, there are huge problems with access to university for poorer students who, although able, are not prepared to put up with the costs and debts incured to do a degree because they don’t have a family who can afford to support them. Furthermore, if access to education is based on wealth, as it will be under the Coalition plans, then you create a further divide between those who come from wealth, get a degree, then earn the graduate premium, and those who are poor, cannot afford an education, and a consigned to a lower position in society. Perhaps you like this?

  • andrew searson 2nd Aug '11 - 6:52pm

    Wow, I have just read the full report from the link…How out of touch is Hughes? How long did this take, all but an hour? Its worst than a rushed first year university student essay. The Hughes Report! What a load of tosh. No substance, based on populist ideas and most of it already takes place in some form or another in the education system already. Mr Hughes seems as knowledgeable about education in the 21st century as Mr. Gove!

  • asquith

    At least you should get some credit for linking to a set of “bullet points” that include:
    You WILL owe money for longer and MAY pay a LOT more

  • asquith, that link gets trotted out often, despite having dodgy figures and not working with a full understanding of the situation regarding post grad costs – because the government does not know what these are anyway.

    Education is an ongoing disaster because the sums don’t add up, it was never subjected the the proper parliamentary scrutiny and the vote was forced through before there was even a policy to vote on!

    If you want a simple illustration of how badly Cable and the government have gone wrong with their sums then consider this, Cable said £9,000 would be the exception but now 1/3 of Universities are going to charge £9,000. Where will the money come from and why did the minister not realise what would happen? These are resigning issues.

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd Aug '11 - 11:47am


    Care to explain what’s wrong with the figures in that link from Asquith? Looks pretty kosher to me.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Aug '11 - 12:55pm

    I agree with the criticisms. There is much in this report with which I disagree, some of it strongly. There is little in this report which reflects the real experience of academic teachers and the issues we face.

    I have worked as a university lecturer for over 20 years. For half that time I was my department’s admissions tutor – directly responsible for the decisions on which applicants to recruit. I took on this position (which is onerous and career-damaging, as the only thing that counts in academia for promotion is your research record) because I was myself the first in my immediate family to go to university and I have a passionate believe in widening access to people coming form the lower working class background I came from. Had I been asked, I would have contributed to this report. I have been a long-term member of the party and have made no secret of my background and employment, and Simon knows me, but I was not asked.

    I single out one paragraph “It is my firm view that interviews which are conducted by an academic who will end up teaching that particular student are too subjective. This is not to say that interviews are not useful in the admissions process. Interviews, particularly when there is a large amount of highly able students, can be useful methods of differentiating students. However, like the rest of admissions procedures, interviews should be conducted by trained admissions personnel who will not have face to face teaching responsibilities for the interviewee”. My firm view is the opposite. This comes from years of having to explain to “trained” admin staff that no, a certificate in word processing or in management jargon is NOT a good qualification for a Computer Science degree. I can ASSURE Simon that if you’re the one who teaches the students you know DAMN WELL what you require, much better than some bureaucrat.

    One of the biggest problems in admission of applicants from poorer backgrounds is the way so few applicants from these backgrounds have the qualifications we academics know from experience give the most useful training and development in the background skills we need. I see nothing in this report on this issue. Michael Gove’s E-bacc, though flawed, does more than anything suggested in this report to help. For example, 80% – four out of five – university biosciences departments say the students they get have inadequate mathematics to cope with what they teach (this was reported in the Times Higher a few weeks ago). You would find much the same from university engineering, computer science, economics departments. The poor take-up of A-level Maths, particularly at the lower end of the social scale, is a huge factor in why applicants from that end do badly. When I was admissions tutor for my Computer Science department it broke my heart seeing every year hundreds of applicants from poorer backgrounds who had been badly advised on 16-18 year old qualifications choice, many of whom I had to reject for that reason.

  • “Make university an option for all”

    What even those people with an IQ of 80?

    The focus on university is clouding the real issue. Their is a lack of suitable further education and career paths for the majority of students. Our politicians belief that there are votes in making parent’s believe their child can get into university no matter how unsuitable the university or the child is, has got to the point where it’s now harming our economy through a lack of properly skilled workers.

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