Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020

Target to send 50 percent of young people to university is axed

Blair-era target to send 50 percent of young people to university is axed as cash for apprenticeships is boosted in Rishi Sunak’s ‘mini-budget’

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce increased funding for apprenticeships
  • Gavin Williamson will formally abandon the 50 per cent target next week 
  • The 50 per cent target set by Tony Blair has been criticised as ‘middle class’ 

The target to get 50 per cent of young people into university is set to be formally abandoned as part of a drive to expand vocational education.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use next week’s mini-Budget to announce funding for a huge expansion in apprenticeships.

With youngsters facing what is set to be the most difficult jobs market for a generation, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will also launch a major push to expand further education.

Mr Williamson is expected to formally abandon the 50 per cent target next week and focus on improving access to high-quality practical and vocational courses at college.

The target to get 50 per cent of young people into university is set to be formally abandoned as part of a drive to expand vocational education 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use next week’s mini-Budget to announce funding for a huge expansion in apprenticeships

One government source described the 50 per cent target, originally set by Tony Blair, as ‘middle-class bull***’.

Boris Johnson said this week he wanted to offer an ‘opportunity guarantee’ to all young people amid fears that the recession sparked by the lockdown could see unemployment soar past three million.

A study by the IPPR think-tank forecast yesterday that unemployment among under-25s would more than double from 420,000 to just over one million by the end of the year.

Large firms are already encouraged to offer youth training by the Apprenticeship Levy. But next week Mr Sunak is expected to offer cash payments to small firms for each apprentice they take on.

Ministers hope the scheme will lead to a massive expansion in the availability of apprenticeships and allow every young person who wants one to get a place.

The 50 per cent university target was first set in 1999 and was finally achieved in 2017. Although now in abeyance, sources said it had continued to drive education policy.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will also launch a major push to expand further education

One government source described the 50 per cent target, originally set by Tony Blair, as ‘middle-class bull***’

‘There has been an unhealthy obsession with the 50 per cent target,’ a government source said. ‘Of course we want people to be able to go to university but we should not be trying to inflate the numbers artificially.

‘All the time the focus has been on the target, no one has been talking about the 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university. That is going to change.’

Ministers believe further education colleges could play a key role in retraining thousands of adults who lose jobs as a result of the lockdown.

But they also argue that college courses can offer better value for money than degrees for many youngsters.

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