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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10 Responses to “Britain must invest in education to succeed in global economy”

  1. jennifer roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Britain must invest in education to succeed in global economy: reports @clairee_french

  2. Dr. Shibley Rahman

    Two particular things worth noting especially as well.

    1. Lib Dems tried to woo a lot of student voters in University cities during the election.

    I am sure that their chief strategists are aware of this issue.

    2. The Coalition agreement is unbelievably vague on this. It provides little in the way of certainty for teachers. students or members of the Liberal Democrat party. I suspect that Cable and Clegg really don’t wish to risk falling out with their grassroots members actually.

    Dr Shibley Rahman
    Primrose Hill, Holborn and St Pancras member (Labour)

  3. Hywel

    The post seems to confuse proportion of young people graduating with the number of young people graduating – it is inconceivable that we and the USA produce a smaller Number of graduates than Iceland or Finland. As for what proportion is the right one for the UK we, as a nation, still have to have a proper answer for the numbers gaining technical and other non degree skills, post 18/19 . . .

  4. Shamik Das

    Quite right! It’s been amended.

  5. It doesn't add up...

    So the OECD has some numbers that show that some other countries have been devaluing degrees even faster than we have?

    We certainly have educational problems in the UK: first and foremost with the rising proportion of the population who remain illiterate and innumerate and thus barely able to earn any kind of living. Secondly, we are failing to get the best from able students passing through the state system who are merely expected not to be illiterate and innumerate, rather than stretched to develop their abilities. Fix those issues, and restore standards throughout the system and there will be a far better contribution to the economy. It’s starting to look like a need for substantial further education to make up for the increasing failure of the school system – but not at degree level.

  6. Feneon

    Straight Statistics questions the OECD’s figures

  7. N Ripley

    The Leitch Review made similar arguments about the need for qualifications for the economy to succeed. The outcomes were that employers began to get subsidised to provide training that they would have paid for, and the state run industries invested a large amount of money at providing a multitude of low level qualifications, at considerable costs to develop. A pause and a considered rethink is required for effective educational investment.

    That is unlikely to come about from this present administration as one of their first actions was to cull educational quangos before they had a proper appreciation of their functions and roles.

    During the time whilst this current administration is in power it would be wise if a more fundamental analysis was undertaken by those in opposition, which took suitable consideration of competency and knowledge based requirements; not just for employers needs but for society’s too.

  8. MattT

    The chart is seriously midleading. Britain comes at the bottom only because the others are an eclectic mix of mostly super-developed countries.

  9. Charlie Holden

    RT @leftfootfwd: Britain must invest in education to succeed in global economy

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