As students express concern over proposals in the Higher Education Funding and Student Finance review this week, Highbury College principal Stella Mbubaegbu CBE praises the benefits of a more cost-effective vocational alternative to university study.
The report, led by Lord Browne, put forward a number or controversial proposals, including abolishing the current £3,290 a year cap on tuition fees and introducing an interest rate on student loans.
However, there were also proposals for new support for the costs of learning for part-time students and an increase in support for living costs for students from low income backgrounds.
Commenting on the review, Stella Mbubaegbu said: “Many of my students, prospective university students, are concerned about the effect the proposed fee increases would have on their futures. They are ambitious and keen to make something of their lives, and they see higher education as a way to achieve this.
“It is important, however, that people do not overlook the vital role further education institutions play in providing excellent, cost-effective higher education. Studying HE in FE allows students to improve their earning potential while saving on living expenses by continuing to live at home and hold on to part-time jobs.
“A high proportion of FE colleges across the country already offer high quality foundation degree programmes and other HE provision. At Highbury we have over 300 students on university level programmes funded by HEFCE. The benefits of taking up these opportunities are not just their affordability.
Tuition fees are lower than charged by HE institutions, but there is also real advantage in the vocational nature of the qualifications. Students gain practical skills to reinforce their theoretical knowledge.
“This option is already proving a popular choice with one in eight undergraduates studying for their degree in FE.
“The recommended ten per cent increase in the number of HE places also put forward in this report, I believe, should be given to further education colleges to offer this lower-cost industry-relevant alternative to students who want to avoid the more substantial cost and potential debt they might incur from university study.
“Another important point I believe should be welcomed is the fee support and elimination of upfront payment for part-time students, who are able to study through part-time routes, allowing them to continue working and earning while they learn.
“I think the emphasis the report puts on good careers advice is essential and I echo the call for high quality information to help students choose the educational institution and course that best matches their aspirations.”
Highbury College Portsmouth is one of the largest vocational colleges in the south east of England and is now celebrating over 45 years of providing excellent education and practical training.
The College offers excellent vocational training in a wide range of subject areas including media and journalism, construction and the built environment, hospitality and catering, automotive, engineering, hair and beauty, business, accounting, IT and computing, health and social care and many more.
According to the latest figures from the Data Service for 2008/09, the College’s success rates have placed it in the top three per cent of general further education colleges in the country and the top performing GFE college in the South East of England.
Stella Mbubaegbu CBE was celebrated nationally and internationally for breaking barriers to become the very first ethnic minority female principal and chief executive of an incorporated further education college in the UK. She was awarded a CBE for services to further education in 2008.
The principal was recently named Business Personality of the Year at the Southern Business Awards 2010.