FROM CAREER GUIDANCE TODAY: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Students: Aim Higher For A World Of Options

The annual publication of A-level results throws into focus the range of options available to students, as well as adults looking to develop or change their career. Minister Bill Rammell discusses the importance of Higher Education

Over 270,000 students across the UK received their A-level results in August 2006 and all will be embarking on either further study or a career. It is important that those school leavers, as well as adults, have all the information and advice possible at their disposal to ensure they can capitalise on their individual talents and set themselves up for success in their career of choice.

Higher education is fast becoming invaluable and the arguments for students to participate in study are obvious. There will be a significant increase in the proportion of jobs requiring a HE level qualification - of the 13.5 million jobs expected to be filled by 2012 (forecasted by the Institute for Employment Research), 50 per cent are most likely to need graduates. Graduates earn, on average, substantially more than people with A-levels who did not go to university. Over a working lifetime, the difference is predicted to be something like £100,000 at today's valuation. Higher education could be the best investment you'll ever make.

However, many students may not consider higher education due to low aspirations, lack of confidence or fear over finances. It is imperative that careers advisors not only continue to provide advice on courses and careers but also promote the financial support now available and the lifelong benefits of staying on in education. Significantly, graduate-level recruits are vital for the competitiveness of businesses and the UK economy.

There is a diverse range of opportunities available to people looking for a higher education option that suits them and a path into the career of their choice. Foundation Degrees for example, despite being established as recently as 2001, have proved another increasingly popular option for people looking to get a head start, or get further in their chosen career. 47,000 students are currently studying for Foundation degree courses, an increase of 24 per cent on the 2004-2005 academic year. These qualifications - in which there are around 1,800 courses from aeronautical engineering and financial services to professional photography and business management - are designed and delivered in partnership with employers to ensure that graduates develop valuable skills with direct relevance to the employment market. Students can study in a way that suits them - full-time, part-time or online and work- based learning can also be an option. Visit www.foundation degree.org.uk for further information.

It is vital that students understand what financial support is available to ensure that they are not deterred from higher education because of money worries. This year we have introduced a much fairer system so that students can study first and pay back when they are earning. In particular students can get a loan for their tuition fees which they don't have to repay until they've left their course, are in work and earning more than £15,000 (see box for full details). We've also brought back non-repayable grants for students from poorer backgrounds.

The high standards of the UK's career guidance offering will remain crucial to the prosperity of future generations. Let us continue to ensure that all of our young people are equipped with the information that will help them decide their future.

Bill Rammell is the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education. If you are a resident of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland visit www.direct.gov.uk, where you can find out about the devolved administrations in each country

STUDENT FINANCE: FAST FACTS

Universities and colleges offering Higher Education courses in England are now able to charge new full-time students up to £3,000 per year in tuition fees. There is a new financial package available that takes the changes into account.

Student loan for tuition fees and living costs:

Eligible, full-time students can apply for a loan specifically for their tuition fees and also a maintenance loan to help with living costs. Loans do not have to be repaid until students have left their course and are earning over £15,000 per year. If someone is earning the average starting salary of a graduate level job of £18,000 they would repay £5.19 a week.

Maintenance grant:

New full-time students from lower income households (those with an income of £37,425 or less) could be eligible for a non-repayable maintenance grant of up to £2,700 per year. It is expected that around half of all full-time students are likely to be eligible for a full or partial grant.

Bursaries:

Further financial support from universities and colleges in the form of non-repayable bursaries may be available. All institutions charging the full £3,000 a year for tuition fees are required to provide additional non-repayable financial support to students that are receiving the full £2,700 maintenance grant.

Student fee grant for part-time students:

Eligible part-time students can also apply for non-repayable support in the form of the fee grant of up to £1,125 and a grant to help with course costs of up to £250.

For further information visit www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance

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