The value of space as well as support

The end result....What higher education means for parents and students
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are now more applicants from China for universities and colleges in the United Kingdom than from any other country in the world. Unsurprising, perhaps. Chinese parents are allowed by law in their country to have only one child and they wish to ensure that either their son or daughter gets the best university education in the world.

There are now more applicants from China for universities and colleges in the United Kingdom than from any other country in the world. Unsurprising, perhaps. Chinese parents are allowed by law in their country to have only one child and they wish to ensure that either their son or daughter gets the best university education in the world.

Families are not so restricted in the UK but they can still benefit from their sons and daughters going to university or college. There is no doubt that there is huge value in obtaining a degree or perhaps a national diploma. It will be valuable in terms of the salary which graduates earn and can repay within not too short a time. So, parents should encourage their sons and daughters to go to university or college and incur debt in the knowledge that it can be repaid many times over during a working life.

What parents have to remember, even though they may have to support their families through turbulent financial times while at university or college, is that we are talking about the life and decision of young people, not that of their parents. Parents should not interfere with what their children want to do. Just because dad was an accountant or mother a teacher, doesn't mean that the son or daughter should go into accountancy or teaching. Let them make up their own mind and support them in their choice.

With any luck, sons and daughters will already have got a place at university or college having made the right grades. On the other hand, many will have to go into Clearing. This is where it gets difficult for parents. But it is essential that, when the prospective student rings a university or college having seen that it has got vacancies, that they do it themselves. The last thing that admissions tutors want is to talk to doting parents. It doesn't matter if your son or daughter is emotional or tearful, admissions tutors are used to dealing with young people who are upset. Parents can help their children by ensuring that they prepare a few questions to put to an admissions tutor.

I have never forgotten the telephone call that we had at the office a few years ago from a mother who was trying to get her son a place at college. She wasn't really sure what her son wanted to do. She started off with English, progressed to economics and education and finally conceded that she knew the subject he wanted to study began with an e. Let them do it themselves!

I remember when my stepdaughter gave birth to my first grandchild, I said to her it was the first 35 years that were the worst. Would the child be healthy? Would she pass her GCSE examinations well enough? Would she pass her A-levels well enough? Would she have the right boyfriend? Would she do the right course at university and would she get the right job? Would she marry the right man? After 35 years the parents become the problem and the boot is on the other foot.

What you as parents have to do is let them make their own decisions and to support them. I guarantee that in 10 or 15 years, you will be proud of them.

The writer is chief executive of UCAS

Comments