Rishi Sunak might just burst the Westminster bubble by scrapping ‘rip off’ degrees
Rishi Sunak can ‘crack down’ on ‘low-value’ courses but closing the road doesn’t fix the potholes
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Rishi Sunak announced measures earlier this week to crack down on the number of students studying ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees and raise the prestige of vocational education. As the saying goes, people who live in Parliamentary houses should not throw stones as what may return could burst the Westminster bubble.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Monday (17 July), the Education Minister Gillian Keegan, said: “There are too many students not getting [good] jobs, too many students who aren’t completing, too many students who are dropping out.”
But Keegan failed to mention which ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses have got an Eton sized cross next to their name. In fact, the closest thing we’ve got to a definition came 20 years ago when New Labour’s higher education minister, Margaret Hodge invented the phrase.
“It [A Mickey Mouse degree] is one where the content is perhaps not as rigorous as one would expect and where the degree itself may not have huge relevance in the labour market,” she said.
While previously not coined, the phrase has stood the test of time and social attitudes to university courses have always stood adjacent to gaps in the Labour force, economic demand and the cultural landscape.
During the 60s, teenagers were moving away from STEM subjects and the proportion of science degrees granted between the early 60s and 80s dropped from nearly 60% to about 45%.
A ‘heavy handed’ push from the government to direct students away from ‘social studies’ and back into science did little to quiet the revolution. Even the chair of the National Commission, Fred Dainton, concluded: “The tradition of respect for the choice of the individual is rightly embedded in our educational as well as our political institutions.”
The lack of detail in Rishi’s ‘crack down’ is leading many to ghost hunt the degrees that could be capped. Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ms Keegan confirmed the policy will target ‘any particular course’ as long as it show’s a high-percentage of dropouts and low post-graduate employment.
Critics have labelled the move ‘an attack on the arts’ but graduates of social sciences, humanities and arts make up 58 per cent of FTSE executives and 2.3 million people make up the UK’s prosperous creative industries.
Similarly, if the government turns its back on BA Hons recipients, a Cabinet-sized mirror will need to be brought into Parliament to emphasise the irony.
Rishi Sunak can ruffle the metaphorical hair of vocational courses and wag his finger at ‘unskilled’ degrees but closing the road will not ease the congestion. In fact, it may open a one-way road out of Westminster Abbey.