Britain must invest in education to succeed in global economy

In less than a decade, the United Kingdom has slumped from third to 15th position in the number of students graduating, it emerged today.

In less than a decade, the United Kingdom has slumped from third to 15th position in the percentage of young people graduating, it emerged today. Analysis from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that economic recovery could be affected if investment in higher education is not made.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said:

“With the worldwide recession continuing to weigh on employment levels, education is an essential investment for responding to the changes in technology and demographics that are re-shaping labour markets.

“In a global economy, it is no longer improvement by national standards alone. The best performing education systems internationally provide the benchmark for success.”

While Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, commented:

“Low levels of education cost both the state and society dearly. This is equally, if not more, relevant in times of recession. It would be short sighted and irresponsible of the Government to try and use budget deficits as an argument for cutting further education funding.

Using statistics from 2008, the OECD reported that the UK invests less (in terms of GDP) than countries such as: the US, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Slovenia. Finland produces the most graduates, with 63 per cent of young people receiving their first degree – compared to just 35 per cent in the UK.

The news comes on the same day as recommendations in a draft report on university funding are released. It is expected to ask the Government to consider raising fees up to £7,000 a year.

The report, which began in November last year and was written by Lord Browne of Madingley, also recommends that it should be banks that pay upfront tuition fees to universities instead of the Treasury. The National Union of Students has warned that the debt facing students after graduation would be in excess of £32,000 if the recommendations were acted upon.

As NUS President Aaron Porter wrote exclusively for Left Foot Forward earlier today:

“When top-up fees were introduced in 2006, students were told by politicians who had benefited from free university education that a tripling of their contribution would lead to real improvements and a better university experience. These improvements haven’t materialised and student satisfaction has remained static. And yet university heads are calling for the cap to be doubled again.


“Fortunately, every single Liberal Democrat MP, including Vince Cable and Nick Clegg, have long opposed tuition fees and signed an NUS pledge to vote against any increase in fees and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative. Now that they are part of the Coalition Government, the public will hold them to the cast-iron commitments they have made on what is a totemic issue for both their party and their voters.”

Having promised to scrap tuition-fees in their manifesto before the election, and Nick Clegg (pictured here) agreeing not to increase the cost of studying – the credibility of the Liberal Democrats, especially Vince Cable, may rest upon the graduate tax.

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