The leading voice of graduate recruiters and developers has called on the next Government to abolish the 50% target for participation in higher education and to start a phased increase in student top-up tuition fees.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) said the measures were vital to raise standards and improve the student experience, and would compel institutions to be more transparent about the value of their degree courses. It made the call in its new manifesto –Talent, Opportunity, Prosperity – which sets out a series of recommendations for the future of UK higher education and the role employers should play in it.

Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the AGR, said: “These proposals reflect the views of 750 major employers which collectively recruit around 30,000 graduates a year in the UK. In our opinion, there has never been a greater need for government, employers and universities to build a shared vision for higher education. I do not believe it is over-stating the case to say that the UK’s prosperity and productivity are depending on it.

“The AGR was founded in 1968 when there were only 250,000 university students in the UK. Today that figure is more than 2.3 million and the landscape of higher education has changed beyond recognition. An Independent Review of Higher Education and Student Finance is underway, the Burgess Review has declared the degree classification unfit for purpose, and too many young people are left to graduate without vital employability skills.

“We urge all political parties to consider the practical recommendations in our manifesto; adopting them would have huge benefits for the economy and help to reaffirm the value of a degree.”

With a general election now imminent, the manifesto argues that the introduction of an artificial target to get 50% of under-30s into higher education has driven down standards and devalued the currency of a degree.

The manifesto also calls on all political parties to support the gradual removal of the cap on student top-up tuition fees by 2020, as long as safeguards are put in place to protect students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It says families should be encouraged to save for higher education through a national savings scheme and provided with more transparent information by universities about the relative value of their degree courses and the employment outcomes of their graduates.

 

The manifesto for graduate recruitment calls for:

?         the abolition of the 50% target for participation in higher education

?         a phased removal of the cap on student tuition fees by 2020

?         the embedding of employability skills in all degree courses

?         the introduction of the Higher Education Achievement Report alongside the degree classification

?         more high-quality work experience for students before and during university

?         a national savings scheme to help families prepare for the cost of higher education

?         tax breaks for employers of graduates who are entering the workplace for the first time

?         best practice guidance and more practical support for university and school careers services

?         a streamlined visa process for employers recruiting international graduates

Carl Gilleard continued: “We know that some of these calls to action – particularly those which relate to funding and finance – are unlikely to receive a universal welcome. After careful consideration, however, we have concluded that this package of measures is the best way to drive up standards in higher education, provide a better return on investment for students and parents, and ensure the UK remains competitive in a global knowledge economy.”