The East Riding College column with Paul Smith – director of curriculum programmes, learning and quality

East Riding College students celebrate during the recent graduation at Bridlington Priory.

It’s 12 years since I left university and a lot of changes have taken place both locally and nationally for students.

Not least, that students have seen university fees increase significantly, yet the proportion of young people choosing a university-level education has risen, and peaked in 2015/16 at 49%.

Director of curriculum programmes, learning and quality at East Riding College, Paul Smith.

We had good news this year when the Government extended the threshold at which graduates start to pay back their loans to £25,000.

This can be attractive to students and means that they don’t have to start paying for their higher education until they are seeing the benefits of it, and even then repayment levels are low.

For example, someone earning a salary of £27,000 would only pay £15 per month – less than 50p per day.

The time of year has come when young people await A-Level or advanced level course results and decisions are made that affect people’s futures. There is of course, more to think about than funding and loans.

Studying for a degree-level course is a big commitment over several years and young people often worry about whether they will see the benefit of it, beyond the experience of university life.

Graduates do tend to have higher employment rates and are more likely to work in higher-skilled jobs than non-graduates.

On average, their earning potential is almost a third more when entering the jobs market, but this varies a lot by sector and there are certainly well-paid career choices for those without degrees too.

Other higher-level options are opening up for students as well, including Higher Apprenticeships, which are apprenticeships where you study for a degree alongside work.

In my experience, more and more higher education students are also choosing to study locally for good reason – whether it’s because of family or work commitments, or because they just want to stay closer to home and minimise their living costs whilst still getting a degree.

Our higher education students at East Riding College are a balanced mix of young people continuing their education and people returning to education after a break.

One common misconception about studying at a local college is that students are somehow sacrificing the quality of their education.

In Bridlington, this could not be further from the truth.

In East Riding College the town has a QAA-approved, ‘TEF Silver’ institution.

These are both measures that assure the high quality of our higher education teaching and delivery.

A lot of college degrees are actually awarded by partner universities too, so in a lot of cases students graduate with a degree from a highly respected university.

I would encourage anyone considering further study or returning to study to consider their local college, wherever they live.

I know our students particularly love our supportive atmosphere and excellent lecturer contact time.

I know, because they tell me all the time! Plus, we have consistently high satisfaction rates in national student surveys, and not every university or college can say that.

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