School leaver blog: technical qualifications, labour rights, and racism at university

  • by Anna Vall Navés
  • Last updated 11 Jul 2019

Welcome to the first ever edition of AllAboutSchoolLeavers’ weekly blog! This week, we’ll be covering recent updates to school-leaver qualifications, which are set to be revamped in the coming years. We’ll also be taking a brief look at recent research into workers’ rights and racism in higher education.


School leaver qualifications to be revamped

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced this week that it will be launching proposals to increase the intake and improve the quality of technical and vocational qualifications.

Level four and five qualifications, which sit between level three (A-level) and level six (university degree), are school-leaver qualifications that include certificates and diplomas in higher education and foundation degrees. 

The DfE has announced that thousands of these “opaque and misunderstood” qualifications are set to be quality-approved and renamed as higher technical qualifications (HTQs), a decision that looks to ensure that HTQs are regarded as “high-quality and valued alternatives to a traditional academic route”.

Research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research this year found that people with higher level qualifications in STEM subjects earned as much as £5,000 more a year than people with degrees from most British universities. In other sectors, including business and construction, their earnings were close to those of most graduates.

“But the evidence shows that despite these qualifications putting people in prime position to take advantage of that demand and the opportunities for better wages and prospects, not enough people know about them,” said Damian Hinds, education secretary

In the UK, only  low awareness and complexity in the market”, alongside cultural attitudes. 

The government hopes to have the HTQ status established by 2022, when the first cohort studying T-levels—the vocational complement to A-levels—is set to graduate. It is hoped that the new HTQ status, alongside a public awareness campaign, will promote the lesser-known options available to school leavers in the UK.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do” — Steve Jobs

Workers’ rights around the world

Research into labour rights published this week has revealed how workers fare in different countries around the world, primarily in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member nations. The study, which takes into account work-life balance, parental leave and the rights of women, has found countries such as Norway and Denmark paving the way in terms of workers’ rights legislation. Worldwide rankings have also recently been published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Tackling racism in UK higher education

As a student occupation of Goldsmiths University against institutional racism enters its 17th week, an investigation published by The Guardian reveals widespread evidence of racism at UK universities. The study revealed 996 formal complaints of racism in the past five years, a figure that is believed to underestimate the real scale of racism at UK institutions. A spokeswoman for Universities UK said: “There is no place for racism on a university campus. In the coming year we will develop guidance targeted at addressing racial harassment.”

Spotlight on: Sabrina Germain, Law Teacher of the Year

Sabrina Germain, a lecturer in law at City, University of London, has been awarded the >Law Teacher of the Year award. She was praised for her student-centred approach, including her ability to engage and motivate students to grow. Commenting on her success, she said: “I’d like to thank my students for motivating me to be the lecturer that I am. I thank them for challenging me every time I enter a classroom.”

Recommended reading

  1. CollegeInfoGeek’s most recent podcast discusses the strange turns that careers can take and debunks the myth that most careers progress in a straight line. 
  2. An article on The Telegraph, based on Department for Education figures, lists the UK’s highest-paying degrees based on graduate salaries.
  3. A recent study has found that, despite better exam results, girls between the ages of seven and sixteen are more likely to doubt their intelligence than their male peers. 
  4. Youtuber Ibz Mo, famous for discussing his experiences as an ethnic minority student at Cambridge University, has graduated this week with plans to become a human rights lawyer.
  5. Another popular Youtuber, Daniel Howell, believes online influencers like him can provide the guidance and support to young LGBT people that schools do not.


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