Degrees of Apprenticeship

Alasdair Galloway

The problem I have with this story in the Independent is that what they intend to achieve is right, but they are doing it for all the wrong reasons

“Students should turn to apprenticeships to ease soaring demand for degrees, Ucas boss warns”

The presentation of encouraging school leavers to go for “apprenticeships” is  that its directed “to bring down soaring demand for higher education places”. On present trend England is heading toward one MILLION applicants for universities every year.

Instead of asking how we “damp down” this demand, perhaps we should be asking whether what the country needs these sorts of numbers of school leavers going through university (and I would argue exactly the same thing is true of Scotland).

I support the four-year Scottish Honours course, but the same trend here will lead to pressure for this to become a three years Honours course, just like England. Not because the English system is better (it’s not), but for the worst of all reasons – cost.

But more critically, have we got the balance right? Is it right, for instance, that any child leaving school who doesn’t get to university is in any sense “a failure”? More practically, is it not the case that there is a growing need for technician trained young people. Have you tried to find a plumber or an electrician to work for you? Can we not celebrate that a child can find something, somewhere to do where his/her skills will be employed and they will feel fulfilled (and not just “blood knackered” as one respondent in a “job enrichment” project told Theo Nichols) even if it’s not at university.

Do we not need to take a wider view of ability? That it’s not all about – God help us – regurgitating the stuff they have heard in the last 12 months in response to some question that they will never consider again in their lives? That we need to offer more respect to manual skills – speaking as someone who is a danger to life armed with a power drill. A builder of my acquaintance always says when a client tells him that what he is doing is great and he couldn’t do it, that “But I couldn’t do your job”. And neither he could. Society needs a wide range of skills, but we offer more prestige for some jobs more than others, and in particular we chose to reward some more than others. Perhaps we need to take a more functional view – that everyone doing a job is necessary for society to function. I would have thought that if there is a single positive from the pandemic that recognising this would be one of them, but it seems not. Perhaps when you can’t get your bins emptied and your kids are at home all day (again) might give us the assistance we need to realise and respect this.

Of course, given its class-ridden nature, the UK is probably not the place you would choose to do this. One more reason to get out.


5 thoughts on “Degrees of Apprenticeship

  1. Students can go into an apprenticeship at 16 years and work and study (P/t) to degree level. They can do an apprenticeship. The outcome to higher remuneration and a higher standard of living. Tradespeople have high employment and good remuneration.

    Unemployment is relatively low. 4% Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen. 8% in Dundee. Aberdeen had 1/2% unemployment for years. Negligible. People changing jobs etc. More jobs are becoming available after the pandemic.


  2. Students can do a 3 year degree course in Scotland but most do the four year Hons course. A minority go on to do a Masters. Or return later. In some cases if a Masters is done later it has to be financed privately. As continued study is is funded. The Hons year included a Dissertation. Heavy study but most get through it. A drop out rate 10%? but people can return later. Or p/t study on the job.


  3. In Scotland the population has remained relatively the same. Since 1900 (and before) to 2000. 5 million. It has increased to 5.4million since Devolution. The birth rate is falling. A higher demand for university places for those from school is questionable. If 30% on average go from school. 20% to 25% mature students.

    Education was opened up in the 1980’s to mature students. The birth rate had fallen. The Pill 1970’s. More available contraception. Less children born. Education was opened up to mature students to fill the places. More women worked P/T but did not have pension rights. P/t workers were not included in many pension schemes. The women are retired now. Many on pension support. Not enough remuneration. Everybody’s mothers on the welfare benefits. UK pension 1/4 of the average income. The lowest in Europe. Too much spent on illegal wars, financial fraud and tax evasion by the Westminster Treasury.

    England has different circumstances. A higher population increase rate. The birth rate is still falling. A three year degree accommodating more students pro rata.

    Scottish resources and revenues were taken illegally and secretly to fund London S/E.

    Scotland needs people. Scotland backs education and believes it is important.


  4. An issue here is what used to be called ‘parity of esteem’. This is a laudable and desirable aim to value equally the contributions made to society by everyone and, this entails, amongst other things, ensuring that everyone is paid well and that everyone can have an influence on society.

    The ‘professional associations’ have largely subverted this for the gain of their exclusive groups of members, the private school system does it, the House of Lords (The Great and the Good) is an example of it. And these groups which form a small minority have acquired significant power and use that power to exclude the majority of the population.

    The selective school system, which the Tories have substantially restored in England, is designed to limit the opportunities of the majority of the population to acquire a measure of power and influence, and, under the mendacious concepts of ‘meritocracy’, ‘equality of opportunity’, ‘social mobility’, etc to make those excluded blame themselves. New Labour and the Clinton Democrats were about using these weasel terms to continue the Thatcher/Reagan socioeconomics.


    1. One of the first things you learn at University is the development of a common language within your education peer group, sometimes even specialised to your particular field of study. This is presented as an aid to the free flow of concepts and information in a commonly understood language (it’s English Jim, but not as we know it) therefor you do not have fingers or toes, you have phalanges, the thermo dynamic transport properties of fluids, thrustrum equations, and the great circle route, are as alien to most people as the heavenly dancers, (aurora borealis)
      This is done so that you may easily identify someone from your educational peer group from the crowd who are to be considered beneath the group.

      “Ah hink er fur ah um”

      whether in Scots, French, Gaelic, English, or Latin does not change as a concept.
      The programming of a Pavlovian response works just as well in American as it does in the original Russian.
      What our education system requires, but has NO desire to take on, is a systemic removal of the caste system it, it’s self creates by the use of excluding language.
      Like dog breeders and the kennel club trying to win the perfect Alsatian.
      We have come so far down the road of exclusivity, we are in danger of destroying the concept of “education for all”.
      The kennel club are trying to correct their previous mistakes.
      When will we as a society accept that “education for all” requires that we do not create a caste system in attempting to achieve delivery of the concept.
      Debate and solve this and you will be on the way to equating the manual skills of an apprenticeship with the cerebral skills of degree courses.
      Or perhaps you could persuade the house of lords to vote themselves out of existence. Probably an easier task


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