‘I want to get straight in and work my way up’: Why East Anglia’s young people are shunning university

Aviation engineering students from City College Norwich. Picture: City College Norwich

Aviation engineering students from City College Norwich. Picture: City College Norwich

City College Norwich

Data shows that fewer than half of young people from Norfolk and Suffolk are going on to higher education study, for example university degrees.

The Department for Education found 46pc of students in Norfolk and 52pc in Suffolk who finished their 16 to 18 study in 2015/16 went on to study a degree course or similar qualification - below the national average of 58pc.

So what are young people in East Anglia choosing to do instead?

We asked higher and further education providers what they - and their students - think about the options available for study beyond the age of 18.

City College Norwich

Jerry White, deputy principal at City College, said there was "less of a tradition" within Norfolk's families and communities to go on to higher education (also known as level four study) - but the college is working to change this but promoting other routes into higher education besides university.

"Around 70pc of our A-level students progress to higher education (HE) and we have good levels of HE progression across most of our vocational areas, spanning everything from construction to creative arts, and sport to health and social care," he said.

City College Norwich higher education students' graduation 2019 at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Andi SapeyCity College Norwich higher education students' graduation 2019 at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Andi Sapey

"Thousands of learners are gaining the higher skills needed for great jobs and careers by studying on HE courses in colleges and through work-based training, including higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships."

Harry Purvis, 17, from Beccles, is studying a level two aviation engineering course at City College. He plans to complete a level three course in the subject at City College and then go on to the professional aviation engineering practice degree at the International Aviation Academy Norwich.

He said: "Big employers are more likely to pick people who have gone through the engineering route straight from high school, right the way to pilot studies - that's my end goal."

Bruna Soares, 19, from Gorleston, is studying a level three creative media course and hopes to secure an apprenticeship with a national broadcaster to begin a career in television production.

She said: "I am more of a hands-on, doing type of person, which is why I want to have an apprenticeship, get straight into it and work my way up, rather than going to university and having to study for three more years."

Morgan Taylor, 18, from Norwich, is studying a level three health and social care course and is applying for higher education courses in childhood studies at UEA and City College's higher education centre to fulfil her aim of becoming a primary school teacher.

City College Norwich deputy principal Jerry White. Picture: Keith WhitmoreCity College Norwich deputy principal Jerry White. Picture: Keith Whitmore

She said: "I am open to studying for a degree at college because it's more familiar to me. I don't want to go really far away and end up regretting it and being miles away from home."

Poultec Training

Ben Gaskins, learner engagement manager at apprenticeships and training provider Poultec in Mattishall, said the company was seeing interest in apprenticeships from both school and college leavers increase year-on-year.

"A number of apprentices have the grades required to go on to study at university, but the ever increasing cost of studying at university has made students consider alternatives," he said.

"Over the last few years everyone has become aware of how important apprenticeships are to the development of an ageing workforce within the UK. Both large national and small local businesses are realising this and are offering some really great opportunities with the region."

For those students who started apprenticeships, Mr Gaskins said the chance to get an industry qualification while earning a wage were big pull factors.

University of East Anglia. Picture: EDP LibraryUniversity of East Anglia. Picture: EDP Library

University of East Anglia

At the UEA, 24pc of the current cohort of undergraduate students are from Norfolk and Suffolk. Over the next five years the university hopes to both increase the number of people from "underrepresented backgrounds", such as those from disadvantaged families and rural and coastal areas.

It is also part of a national outreach programme with Norwich University of the Arts, the University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Suffolk, which targets children in areas identified as having a lower higher education take-up.

A UEA spokesman said: "UEA recruits a significant amount of its students from the local area and we're proud that we make civic and social impact within the community.

"We believe that young people in Norfolk and Suffolk already have high aspirations, but can lack the information and advice on how to achieve their goals. UEA's Outreach team works closely with schools in Norfolk and north Suffolk, from year five upwards, to deliver a progressive programme of events, talks, workshops and on campus events."

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