One In Five Students Can't Do Degree They Want After Choosing Wrong School Subjects | TOTUM
Ben HaywardMarch 26th
2021

A fifth of UK students were not able to do the degree they wanted after studying the ‘wrong’ subjects at secondary school, a survey by Ucas has revealed. 

The same report revealed that two in five students at university said they would have made different choices if they’d received better information and advice at school, especially for courses like medicine, dentistry, maths, economics and languages.

The report, titled ‘Where next?’ highlights the impact of subject choice at school on students' future pathways as well as suggesting ways they can be helped to make informed choices at every stage.

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Looking at responses from over 27,000 first and second year university students in the UK in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the report found that a quarter of students said their parents or carers were their biggest help in deciding which degree to study with many following similar paths.

Students with a parent or carer who is a medical practitioner were eight times more likely to study medicine or dentistry, however students from more ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds were more likely to report not having the relevant subjects to study medicine.

More than a quarter of students said they would make different GCSE or National 5 choices now that they know what their degree course entails, with 32% revealing they would choose a different post-16 option.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “[No student should] unknowingly close the door to their career aspirations.

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"The data showing that disadvantaged students tend to consider the prospect of higher education later than their more advantaged peers clearly demonstrates the need to embed careers information, advice and guidance within primary schools and early secondary years, to raise aspirations from an early age.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education in England said: "We have invested over £100m this financial year alone towards high quality careers provision - including the rollout of the enterprise adviser network, reaching more than 4,000 schools and colleges and connecting 3.3 million young people to future employers, and national careers service support to those who need it.

"We know there is more to do, and pledged earlier this year as part of our Skills for Jobs white paper to expand this offer, rolling out services to all secondary schools and colleges in England.”

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General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said every pupil should have access to careers information and advice to help them choose their future progress. 

Mr Barton said: “Unfortunately, the government dismantled national careers advice services in 2012 and left schools and colleges to pick up the pieces while squeezing their budgets.

"Matters have improved since then through various initiatives, but government support is characteristically piecemeal and inadequate.

"And many universities have not helped by the use of inappropriate unconditional offers which incentivise students to take courses that may not be the best choice for them."

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