College head backs PM on university tuition fees

National College for High Speed Rail - Birmingham

The head of a specialist college in Birmingham has welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to highlight the benefits of technical training as opposed to a university degree.

Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, said not all students were right for university education and many were better suited to a career-focused alternative.

Ms Mowbray said: “We’re enthused that the Prime Minister’s current focus on education is shining a spotlight on the importance of technical training.

“A university education isn’t necessarily for everyone and we need to keep finding innovative ways to deliver training that will help to get people ready for work and connect them better with employers.

“At the National College for High Speed Rail, we’re striving to achieve a healthy balance between practical and academic learning, which can be tailored to suit the needs of individual learners. The benefits of on-the-job training that we offer through apprenticeships, bring an opportunity to work with industry from the offset; earning while learning, which alleviates the burden that can be felt by those students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Speaking in Derby, the Prime Minister Theresa May said university students needed full value from their degrees.

However, Mrs May stopped short of calling for tuition fees to be scrapped outright as Labour has said it would do if it was in power.

Mrs May said she was launched an independent review of tuition fees and university funding, which would be chaired by the author and financier, Philip Augar.

Mrs May said scrapping fees altogether would only push up taxes and likely limit university places to better off students.

She said she felt it was fair that students which benefited directly from higher education should contribute directly towards the cost of their courses.

The current feeling is that universities are not providing best value to all their students, with some being short-changed while studying degrees that will not equip them for life beyond academia.

Almost all universities now charge the maximum fee of £9,250 per year for their courses and with interest rates up to 6.1% many students are facing spiralling debt.

The Prime Minister is understood to prefer a system where the levels of fees relate more accurately to the quality of the course.

With a surplus university places available, largely as a result of falling demand due to increased tuition fees then many universities are finding the climate tough.