Conservative manifesto pledges to axe ‘rip-off degrees’

In the lead-up to the next general election, the Conservative Party has announced a series of manifesto pledges aimed at axing what they term ‘rip-off degrees’. These refer to university courses that do not provide significant value in terms of employability and financial return, but still charge students high tuition fees.

The manifesto outlines several key strategies:

1. Improving Course Transparency: The Conservatives seek to introduce more rigorous reporting requirements for universities. This would include data on graduate employment rates and potential earnings for each course, helping students make more informed decisions.

2. Tougher Regulation: The party aims to give the Office for Students (OfS) enhanced powers to scrutinize and regulate these degrees more effectively. Universities may face penalties if found to be offering courses that do not deliver adequate value.

3. Focusing on Skills Gap: In an effort to align education with market needs, there will be a push towards promoting degrees that address critical skills shortages in fields like technology, engineering, and healthcare.

4. Encouraging Alternative Routes: The Conservatives intend to place more emphasis on apprenticeships, technical education, and lifelong learning opportunities as viable alternatives to traditional university pathways.

5. Fee Reformation: There might also be a review of tuition fees associated with different courses depending on their proven value and alignment with labor market demands.

These measures are designed to ensure that students receive a worthwhile return on their investment in higher education while also aligning academic offerings more closely with the needs of the economy. Critics argue that this approach could undermine academic freedom and marginalize valuable but less economically lucrative fields of study. Proponents, however, insist it is necessary to prevent young people from accruing unsustainable debt for degrees with poor employment prospects.