Big Debate: Should everyone in Newham have a degree?

Theresa May Picture: Neil Hall/PA

Theresa May Picture: Neil Hall/PA - Credit: PA WIRE

Statistics released by the European Union show Newham is part of the second-most educated region in Europe.

Emily Knight of West Ham Conservatives

Emily Knight of West Ham Conservatives - Credit: Archant

A massive 58.3 per cent of residents in Inner London East – which includes Hackney and Islington as well as Newham and others – have a degree or equivalent.

We therefore asked: Should everyone in Newham have a degree?

Emily Knight, West Ham Conservatives

Eddie Playfair

Eddie Playfair - Credit: Archant

UK universities are world leaders and provide excellent teaching, as well as the opportunity for young people to experience living away from home before entering the world of work.


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Every young person who wants to attain a degree and has the grades to match, is supported in achieving that goal, but a university degree is not for everyone, and we should not push teenagers into thinking university is the only option for them.

The Conservative government’s funding and encouragement of apprenticeships over the past few years has led to record numbers of young people applying. Apprenticeships can give young people the opportunity to learn a valuable skill while earning. They can raise the productivity of the businesses they join and are now very well respected as alternatives to degrees.

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The rising number of apprenticeships has led to greater diversity. As well as being able to train in traditional skills such as carpentry, more professions are shunning degrees in favour of in-work training. Nowadays, young people seeking careers in journalism, coding and aviation are able to learn and earn straight out of school without accruing the debt a university degree brings with it. School-leavers in Newham have so much choice, they shouldn’t feel forced into university if it isn’t right for them.

Eddie Playfair, principal of NewVIc (writing in a person capacity)

This year, as usual, over 700 of our students are progressing to higher education and it’s what most of them aspire to.

We are proud to send more disadvantaged young people to university than any other sixth form in England. Together with many others from Newham they are showing their commitment to creating a better future for themselves and for their community.

They are on degree courses which are essential requirements for skilled and professional jobs. And it’s not only young people studying full time – university has evolved to fit around work and to be accessible throughout life.

Over the last 25 years we have seen a massive increase in the numbers of young people from Newham taking this step.

They have turned our borough from an area of low participation to one of high participation. Most stay in east London and help to serve our community and enrich our economy. We need more of this, not less.

Education is not preparation for life, it is essential throughout life. As long as we live, breathe and think, we can learn, grow and work to make things better.

University should be there for everyone who is ready to commit to their continuing education and no one should be told that “it’s not for you” or have their ambition capped.

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