The OECD has produced the annual ‘Education At A Glance’ international comparison report and, as is now traditional, it does an excellent job of trashing a lot of persistent myths about the UK higher education system
- We send too many people to university
No, actually, we don’t. We lag behind a number of countries in terms of university participation, including Australia and New Zealand. Our rate of increase in university participation has slowed down considerably, and a whole suite of countries are expanding more rapidly than us. We’ll get overtaken by all sorts of nations at the current rate.
- We don’t have many science graduates
Actually, we seem to – 1.9% of the employed population aged 25-34 have a science degree or higher compared to an OECD average of 1.3%. 18% of degree holders got science qualifications compared to an OECD average of 11% - only Ireland is higher. (To be fair, we have plenty of biologists, but not many chemists, for example).
- It’s not worth going to university.
I can forgive press misinterpretation of some issues in higher education, but this is the one where I feel they’re guilty of damaging misrepresentation of the issues.
The OECD rather starkly demonstrates just how beneficial going to university is – an earnings advantage, for graduates aged 30 to 44 years, of 61%. It goes up to 77% for a 2:1 or higher. Part of this is because, as the report admits, employment prospects for those who have no upper secondary qualifications are especially poor. The national economy is changing so that those with poor or no skills will soon have very little opportunity.
With that in mind, those who discourage young people to try to improve their own educational level ought to be very careful and should make themselves au fait with the actual situation. This is not data that is amenable to being manipulated by our Government, and indeed there is a fair amount in here to concern it.
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