Degrees of employability

PUBLISHED: 13:51 27 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:42 06 May 2010

Could a degree help your employment prospects?

Could a degree help your employment prospects?

HIGHER Education Minister Bill Rammell has sparked outrage and controversy over his latest declaration that it s no bad thing if students want to choose new vocational subjects over the more traditional ones. He was commenting on the latest figures on U

HIGHER Education Minister Bill Rammell has sparked outrage and controversy over his latest declaration that it's "no bad thing" if students want to choose new vocational subjects over the more traditional ones.

He was commenting on the latest figures on UK university applications which show a fall in the number of people wanting to do subjects such as classics, history and music, and huge rises for nursing, social work, pharmacology and maths.

Overall, universities experienced a 3.4 per cent fall in applications, according to figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Subjects that show a fall in applications include history (44,267, down 7.8 per cent), music (19,367, down 11 per cent), and English studies (51,660, down 4.5 per cent).

Those showing increases include nursing (51,677 applications, up 15.4 per cent), social work (40,875, up by 7.4 per cent) and maths (30,707, an increase of 11.5 per cent).

Mr Rammell said: "What you might describe as subjects which students see as being really non-vocational, like fine art, philosophy, classical studies, have seen big reductions.

"An initial reading of figures suggests to me that there is some evidence that students are choosing subjects they think are more vocationally beneficial.

"If that's what they are doing I don't see that as necessarily being a bad thing."

In response to the question of whether there was any merit in students taking courses in history and philosophy, Mr Rammell said: "Of course there is and if people want to do that I am not going to stop them.

"But if students are making a calculation about which degree is going to get them the best job and the best opportunity in life, I see that as being no bad thing."

Mr Rammell's comments have provoked criticism among some academics.

Sean Lang, a teacher and honorary secretary of the Historical Association, said the remarks were "very short-sighted" and added: "It shows a very limited understanding of the very wide application of academic subjects.

"People are always saying we need to get over the academic-vocational divide. What he is doing is entrenching it, rather than building bridges.

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