For many, the natural decision will be to continue their studies at university – and then hope to obtain a job. For others, however, they might to be swayed by taking up an apprenticeship, or other on-the-job training, because it suits their needs or they don’t want to rack up tuition fee debts.
Both routes are entirely legitimate and, as the potential of vocational education is finally realised, students shouldn’t feel pressurised into going to university. Just because there was a surplus of unfilled places, as teenagers opened their exam results yesterday, was not a reflection on their academic abilities.
Quite the opposite. It’s more likely to suggest that the number of universities has reached saturation point after the sector’s expansion under Tony Blair – and that people are thinking twice of becoming an undergraduate if there’s no guarantee of a rewarding job at the end of three years of higher education.
If anything, this year’s A-Level results should be putting the onus back on vice-chancellors to ensure that more of their degree courses are relevant to the country’s economic needs and career intentions of students. If courses don’t meet this requirement, why are they still being offered?
For, at present, the relationship between education, employers, colleges and academia is too disjointed at a time when the link between schooling – and success in later life – has never been more important. Rather than tinkering with exams, this needs to be the focus of the Government’s attention.