‘Google isn’t interested in degrees’: is the UK snobby about technical education?

Feb 21, 2019 by

Anna Fazackerley –

The vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire and the president of Germany’s Hamburg University of Technology on whether vocational training is fit for purpose

The prime minister’s review of post-18 education, set to report next month, is expected to recommend ways of encouraging young people to consider vocational training routes when they leave school. This will be no small task. In Germany the so-called dual training route, where young people spend a third of their time in college and two-thirds learning on the job with a company, has long had high esteem, and roughly half of young people choose this route instead of university. But in the UK the picture is very different. Before Christmas the education secretary, Damian Hinds, described the British as a nation of “technical education snobs” who consider university the only path to a decent job. Will this ever change? And what does all this mean for universities?

In the latest of our 2VCs discussion series, Anna Fazackerley talked to Ed Brinksma, the Dutch president of Germany’s Hamburg University of Technology, and Quintin McKellar, vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire.

The Hamburg University of Technology is a new university, established 40 years ago, that prides itself on being both research-led and entrepreneurial. It has a heavy emphasis on engineering subjects, with particular expertise in green technologies, life science technologies, and aviation and maritime systems. It works with many of the big players in manufacturing, including Airbus and Dutch firm NXP. In 2016 34% of HUT graduates were in regular employment, and 58% were doing postgraduate study 18months after leaving the university.

The University of Hertfordshire has an explicit mission to be known globally as the UK’s leading business-facing university. It ranks very highly on employability, with 96.5% of graduates in employment or further study six months after graduating. All courses are underpinned by industry expertise. The university has strong degree apprenticeship relationships with Vauxhall and TUI.

Will British snobbery stop us from matching Germany on technical education?
In Hamburg, as in other German cities, universities and colleges compete on a much more level playing field. Brinksma explains that the city state puts a lot of energy into trying to attract young people to do dual training at one of Hamburg’s vocational colleges. The high regard for vocational training leads to exemplary results in youth unemployment, as well as highly skilled workers. But there is still some degree of social stratification. “It is less than in Britain but it is still there. Even in Germany there is a clear correlation between people who go to university and the education their parents had.”

continue: ‘Google isn’t interested in degrees’: is the UK snobby about technical education? | Education | The Guardian

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