Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm Still Here

Not dead yet.

Much amusement today as the OECD's Education At A Glance annual report, comparing various national education systems around the world, is published. The comedy derives from the findings of this august, international, independent bodies, and what this means for the national press.

Yes, I'm afraid that the UK HE system is actually rather good, provides excellent career benefits, and more people should use it - exactly the opposite of what the hacks have been shouting (on purely anecdote-based opinion, rather than evidence-based) grounds all summer. Especial praise goes to the Daily Mail who have po-facedly reported that it's a searing indictment of our appalling government that more youngsters don't take advantage of this internationally marvellous system. I'd link to the article, but it's rubbish.

Anyway, the facts. The current graduate premium in the UK is 58% over the salary an average non-graduate will earn. There are some countries that better us, but they are either the US (which is marginally better but has much lower wages at the bottom of the scale), or countries like Hungary or Poland with far starker labour market segmentation. So saying, we're starting to fall in with the Hungaries of this world as 38% of those without HE qualifications earn under half the national average salary - this probably demonstrates the detrimental effect of not going to university rather better than other figures show the positives of going.

The OECD say that 52% of young people (in their case, they mean people between 18 and 30, and their opinion of what constitutes HE is different to the dti, who say the figure is 42%, but this is an international comparison, so let's go with it) in the UK go on to HE, but that this is behind quite a lot of countries, including Australia, NZ and the US. We have an excellent completion rate (78%, against a global average of 70%) and the second highest proportion of overseas students - 38.6% of our students are foreign and 11% of all students worldwide who study outside their home country come to the UK. And higher fees don't seem to be putting them off. Yes. It all seems rather rosy. But the concerns lurk at the lower end of the skills market, where those 38% of people who don't go to HE are obviously losing out very badly. The report is concerned that there are simply not enough people who are sufficiently qualified to access higher education in the UK, and that this is going to harm competitiveness in the long run.

Still, a good day for a sector that has got a fearful kicking of late. It will be fun to see how it's reported.

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