The degrees which could be axed under Tory plans to scrap ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses

 In News

The Conservative Party has proposed scrapping so-called “Micky Mouse” university degrees which don’t propel graduates into well-paid jobs in favour of increasing spending on apprenticeships.

Rishi Sunak claimed that some universities were “ripping young people off“,  by offering courses which do not increase their long-term earning potential.

Alongside the plan, The Tories have pledged to fund 100,000 new apprenticeships a year by the end of the next parliament. The £900m cost of the funding would be funded by shutting down around one in eight undergraduate degrees deemed to be “poor quality”.

However, the Conservatives have not revealed which courses would be under threat as part of their plans, leading to speculation over which subjects would be included.

i analysed the degree subjects with some of the lowest average earnings for graduates after five years, and the salaries of workers who had taken alternative apprenticeships, based on figures from the Department for Education, to see which courses could be under threat.

Graduate salaries v apprentice salaries

Art and Design

Graduate salary (median average) – £22,300

Apprentice salary – £22,260

According to the latest Department for Education figures, more than 14,000 students completed degrees in Art and Design in 2016/17 and were earning an average salary of £22,300 after five years.

Meanwhile, those who studied for an Advanced Apprenticeship in Crafts, Creative Arts & Design – a Level 3 qualification deemed equivalent to having two or three A-levels – achieved an almost identical average salary of £22,260 after five years, according to government figures.

Agriculture, food and related studies

Graduate salary – £23,700

Apprentice salary – £25,330

Around 1,600 people graduated with degrees in ‘Agriculture, food and related studies’ and were earning an average salary of £23,700 after five years, according to the Government figures.

A range of apprenticeships in the industry are available, with those studying for Level 3 qualifications in ‘Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care’ earning an average of £25,330 after five years.

Media, journalism and communication

Graduate salary – £24,500

Apprentice salary – £25,650

The Department for Education recorded around 5,800 people graduating with degrees in ‘Media, journalism and communications’, who commanded an average salary of £24,500 five years after their studies.

Meanwhile, those taking Level 3 apprenticeships in ‘Media and communication’ were earning £25,650 after the same time period.

Sport-related courses

Graduate salary – £25,900

Apprentice salary – £22,440

‘Sport and exercise sciences’ were a popular degree topic, according to the Government, with more than 6,500 people graduating with degrees in the field.

However, salaries for those who had completed Level 3 apprenticeships in ‘Sport, leisure and recreation’ were broadly similar at £22,440

What do the experts say?

Education experts have urged caution over plans to scrap university courses, saying degree subjects are about more than simply boosting earning potential.

Warning that wage comparisons should also be treated carefully, Higher Education Policy Institute director Nick Hillman told i: “Most of the wage comparisons are based on salaries very soon after obtaining a qualification rather than over a lifetime. While apprenticeships can lead to good starting salaries, it is thought that a traditional university degree often provides a positive lifetime earnings trajectory.

“It is also odd to measure the value of education solely in wage terms – if you train to be a nurse via an apprenticeship, you may end up on a relatively low wage but it is likely to be a very positive outcome for society.”

Describing how university degrees differ from apprenticeships, he added: “Apprenticeships are best thought of as jobs with training attached.

“If a young person has had enough of full-time education and is certain about the career they want – and also certain that this career will not soon be overtaken by AI – then apprenticeships can work out brilliantly.

“The best ones are incredibly competitive to enter, and apprenticeships can be very hard work, with notably high drop-out rates, but – at the end – a successful apprentice emerges with no debt and a secure career”.

Mr Hillman said although he understands why the Conservatives have pledged to cut ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees to boost “incredibly popular” apprenticeships, he added that “there are various reasons why a straight swap from traditional degrees to more degree apprenticeships is not straightforward”.

He said: “The number of apprenticeships available at any point in time is related to the supply, which is determined by employers (who are not even currently allocating the entire existing Apprenticeship Levy funding),” Mr Hillman said.

“They are also related to the demand: apprenticeships are jobs with training attached and many young school leavers do not yet know what job they want.”

The proposals drew criticism from Labour, with shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson, saying: “It is laughable that the Tories, who have presided over a halving of apprenticeships for young people, are now announcing this.

“Why on earth should parents and young people believe they’ll create training opportunities now, after 14 years of failing to deliver opportunities for young people and the skills needed to grow our economy?”

Last year, the Government introduced rules to allow the Office for Students (OfS)to limit the number of students enrolling on poor-performing courses. The latest pledge would give the OfS powers to shut down courses entirely.

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, said: “We will outlaw rip off degrees so that no more students are lured on to courses that don’t deliver the outcomes people deserve.

“Our clear plan will help hundreds of thousands of young people find a path to a financially secure future.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt