For many Taunton students university is the automatic next step beyond school. Around this time of year I am often asked which is the best university to study a particular subject. Now this question is not as easy to answer as perhaps one assumes. There are a number of universities made famous by their age, high entry grades or even their reputation for academic research. Indeed these are all factors with which many parents are familiar and they have there place. But with increasing student costs, and degrees no longer standing out on a CV, perhaps it is time to reassess what makes an outstanding university degree programme.
The government is seeking to make universities more accountable for their student experience. Student satisfaction and employability have become two clear government indicators of university success. I believe graduate employability will move centre stage in the battle for undergraduate recruitment and university funding in the coming years. With 60% of students taking non-vocational degrees expect to hear universities talk a lot about this.
Whilst the name of the university may still carry kudos for many parents, under the new government assessments there are expected to be a number of interesting winners and losers. Modern universities are being recognised for helping to bridge the gap between study and work. University departments who partner with industry leaders and embed employability in their curriculums are being praised. Those which embrace problem based learning and similar strategies to improve teaching quality will gain good student satisfaction. Furthermore, those with a strong commitment to placement years, no matter what subject is studied, those who allow students to study languages alongside their degree programme and those with active and dynamic careers departments should all do well in future league tables.
If employability is of particular concern then gaining an undergraduate degree is not the only next step from Taunton. A small but growing number of students are beginning to see that apprenticeships offer a very credible alternative to undergraduate study. Higher apprenticeships offer fully funded training, coupled with a vocational skills-busting CV. Apprentices can gain a head start in the world of work, requiring graduates to work extra hard to catch up when joining these companies.
One size certainly does not fit all and at Taunton School we work to partner with both students and parents to find the best pathway forward for every individual.
Head of Careers