Cameron needs to start backing our young people and universities

The number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds has risen by 52,000, to 1.04 million, which is the highest number since records began in 1992, writes UCU’s Sally Hunt.


Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)

The unemployment figures (pdf) make for grim reading yet again this month. The unemployment rate has not been higher since 1995 and the number of unemployed people has not been higher since 1994.

And, as Graph 1 shows, the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds has risen by 52,000, to 1.04 million, which is the highest number since records began in 1992.

We have to address the problem of an entire generation being consigned to economic inactivity. Hundreds of thousands of the young people on that dole queue are hard-working students who were encouraged throughout their time at school to ‘aim higher’ and aspire to university.

They did that but now they find the door being slammed in their face through a combination of places being axed, fees rocketing and financial support being cut. These young people do not deserve to become simply another statistic in the record unemployment figures. They need to be given the chance to fulfil their potential, whether that’s at college, university or in the workplace.

A positive first step must be to improve access to education, and the imminent university grant letter from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which details how much funding will be available for university teaching budgets, needs to provide an urgent boost to our beleaguered higher education sector. In reality this means the government rowing back on plans to slash state funding for universities.

Ministers need to recognise that higher education is a public good that generates billions for our economy and that investing in it will benefit all of society and potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of young people from a lifetime of signing on. The government needs to make a clear statement that it backs our universities and young people and the best place to the start is with HEFCE’s grant letter when it is finally delivered in the next few days.

See also:

How well does Boris do on apprenticeships?Darren Johnson AM, January 9th 2012

2012: The year ahead for young peopleAlex Hern, January 7th 2012

Unemployment: How Cameron and Clegg are letting the next generation downRachel Reeves MP and Stephen Timms MP, December 14th 2011

Cameron is pricing the young out of education and consigning them to the dole queueSally Hunt, December 14th 2011

Million young unemployed figure highlights enormity of the situation hitting our youthRory Weal, November 16th 2011

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