This House believes that we should make education compulsory to degree level

In the UK from 2013-15 the age at which young people can leave compulsory education was raised from 16 to 18; from completing GCSEs to completing A levels. Further education to a degree level however remains entirely voluntary even as the numbers attending university rises.

Raising the leaving age to 21 – or when you have a degree level qualification is a much bigger change than simply adding two years of school. The intention would be to create a qualitative increase in education that would benefit the whole country preparing it for the jobs of the future. It is important that such a change is considered now due to the long period in which a worker uses their education. A worker trained now will likely, when considering rises in the retirement age, still be using those skills in fifty years. This length of time means that the education sector needs to be ahead of the curve when it considers the education that young people need for their lives. Is it any longer enough to consider education complete at age 18?

So far, such considerations are left to the individual. Do they want to prepare for the future by going to university, or getting an apprenticeship, or do they want to realise their skills now by going out to work? It is however the government that has the wider perspective to make the decision about where it wants the nations skills level to be in the coming decades.

How this motion is defined could be taken in two ways; we could simply talking about making degrees compulsory, or it could be about having to take any sort of education beyond A level or equivalent. In practice the first option becomes a debate on the pros and cons of going to university but with the added problem for proposition that they need to defend the compulsory aspect. As a result the more balanced option for proposition, which is used here, is to consider ‘degree level’ to be broad far beyond just a university degree. In this UK this means level 6 qualifications[1] which includes any undergraduate degree but also ‘degree apprentice’, level 6 certificates – usually for work related qualifications such as therapeutic counselling,[2] or a level 6 National Vocational Qualification.


[2] Level 6 certificate in therapeutic counselling Supervision (TCSU-L6) http://www.cpcab.co.uk/qualifications/tcsu

Title 
Society has a moral responsibility to educate all its young people
Point 

All men are equal. Each of human has the ethical weight of any other human. Yet education is distinctly unequal. Not only do the richest, go to the best universities (in far greater proportions to the poorest), there is an even greater gap with those who do not continue education at all. If we are equal then the state must provide educational opportunities for everyone beyond 18 as it is equal opportunities in education that allows for equal opportunities later in life. However we cannot simply have a responsibility to provide the opportunity for everyone to get this level of education since not everyone at 18 yet knows what they want to do later in life, or the value of continuing education it should be up to the state to ensure they continue being educated.

Counterpoint 

There is indeed a responsibility to educate young people however this only applies to basic skills; something that is done by 18 if not before. Everyone needs basic literacy and numeracy to navigate through life – talking to others, writing letters, managing personal finances etc – so the state needs to provide that education. However, beyond a basic set level everyone specialises either by subject area or in terms of what they want to do in the long term. Once people are specializing in their education the government has no responsibility to be ensuring that everyone continues education. It is no longer a basic need, but a luxury. And it can never be a basic duty of the state to ensure that a luxury is provided.

Title 
Would need to provide a wide variety of options
Point 

While we may be equal we are not equal in terms of interests in study. Education to 21 can’t just mean ‘everyone should go to university’. Already around 6% of first year university students drop out,[1] making university an only compulsory option would not benefit these young people let alone many of those who currently don’t consider university. There therefore needs to be a wide variety of options to continue studying. This has several advantages; it ensures that the increase in young people in education can be absorbed quickly; FE Colleges would take some, companies doing apprenticeships would take others, rather than all the burden falling on Universities. This fits with the government’s plan to have three million apprenticeships by 2020.[2] In the 1960s British industry took 250,000 apprentices per year[3] which shows there is the potential for industry through such schemes to fill much of the need for education places created by this policy.

Mandatory education requires some form of enforcement.[4] Unlike at school age 18-21 year olds are responsible for themselves so it is them who are responsible for enrolling at a degree level course. However should they never have enrolled they would not be eligible for any benefits.

[1] Havergal, Chris, ‘Rise in UK University rate ‘disappointing’’, Times Higher Education, 23 March 2016 https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/rise-uk-university-dropout-rate-disappointing

[2] Note this is not per year, and not just for 18-21 year olds but would include those younger; 16-18.

[3] ‘Three Million Apprenticeships’, Learning and Work Institute, March 2017, https://www.learningandwork.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Apprenticeship-Policy-Solution-March-2017-3.pdf, p.6.

[4] This is one of the more open areas; do you set enforcement at all? It might be mandatory simply to enrol but there be no penalty for not turning up. There could be a fine (but this would be unfair on the poorest). How about linking it to the right to vote?

Counterpoint 

The wider the variety of options the more difficult it is for the government to implement. There would need to be hundreds of thousands of new education places. In 2015 only 31% of 18 year olds in England went to University, this amounted to 235,000.[1] To treble this would require a huge increase in education provision, clearly not something that can be managed in the short term.

[1] Are there record numbers of young people going to university?, Full Fact, 1 Aug 2016, https://fullfact.org/education/are-there-record-numbers-young-people-going-university/

Title 
Benefit from the increase in skills through their standard of living
Point 

PwC estimates that reducing the level of 20-24 year olds not in employment, education or training to the same level as Germany would add £45 billion to the economy. This policy would have exactly this outcome[1]; being mandatory it would reduce the number of NEETS up to age 21 further than this.

However this benefit to the economy through greater participation is only the start. Higher skilled jobs have higher wages. The value of a degree compared to not having one is estimated at being around £200,000 for the graduate over the course of a lifetime, and even for those who miss out on a first or second class degree result it is over £100,000.[2] With this is a commensurate increase in standard of living; they can afford a bigger house, more holidays, better food. And perhaps more importantly are much less likely to be unemployed and forced into poverty. 89.7% of recent graduates are employment compared to 79.8% of their peers without a degree.[3] This of course has knock on benefits on health, government spending, prospects for children and so on. The benefits derived from further education are substantial and justify making it mandatory.

 

[1] ‘Getting more young people into work, education or training could add £45 billion to UK GDP’, PwC, 26 October 2016, http://pwc.blogs.com/press_room/2016/10/getting-more-young-people-into-work-education-or-training-could-add-45-billion-to-uk-gdp-.html  

[2] Matthews, David, ‘Graduate premium is nearer £200,000 says new report’, Times Higher Education, 15 August 2013, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/graduate-premium-is-nearer-200000-says-new-report/2006574.article

[3] ‘Employment rates of recent graduates’, Eurostat, July 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Employment_rates_of_recent_graduates

Counterpoint 

There is no guarantee that there will be such an increase in skills, certainly not for all young people. Making education compulsory only really affects the minority that does not want to continue studying. However, it is exactly this minority that are going to have most trouble getting the new skills the government hopes to impart with this policy. These are the people who do not get their 5 GCSE’s or pass their A levels. If they are failing at the lower level of education is it really realistic to think that they will succeed when they get to level 6?

And even if there is an increase in skills there is no guarantee that the graduate premium will hold up. There are no examples of a country where everyone gets educated to degree level so no evidence that with many thousands more getting such education that it will continue to be so valued. The increased supply of skilled workers would force down wages and the graduate premium.

Title 
The economy of the future requires more education
Point 

Technology leads to changes in employment structure. Over the last fifty years Britain has seen deindustrialisation with a decline in manufacturing blue collar jobs from being 40% of the workforce in the 1950s to 8% today. Even over short periods the decline has been rapid; employment shrunk from 4.5million to 2.5million in 15 years from 1997-2012.[1] The fourth industrial revolution could have similarly dramatic changes in employment and the skills needed.

There are several big changes to employment happening over the next few decades; machine learning (maybe even artificial intelligence), biotechnology, 3D Printing, and the increasing integration of technology into all aspects of life (the internet of things). Many less skilled jobs, particularly those in routine admin that can be taken by computers will go. But these changes will mean there is greater demand for more skilled jobs; in IT, the sciences, data analysis, but will also require more softer skills such as persuasion and emotional intelligence.[2] In order to increase both these skillsets more education is required. More technical training and apprenticeships is needed in the areas which require technical expertise. Universities will need to train more scientists. It is also through university education that soft skills are mostly learnt; creative and critical thinking, and other soft skills are taught by a wide variety of degree level courses. Making level six education compulsory is the best way to ensure that the largest proportion of the population gains these skills that are needed for the future.

 

[1] Comfort, Nicholas, The Slow Death of British Industry, 24 January 2013, http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2013/01/meeting-our-makers-britain%E2%80%99s-long-industrial-decline

[2] ‘The Future of Jobs’, World Economic Forum, January 2016, p.10, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOJ_Executive_Summary_Jobs.pdf

Counterpoint 

If there is one thing we know about the future, it is that it is difficult to anticipate. Futurologists fifty years ago had ideas about personal jetpacks or flying cars, but for the most part completely missed the biggest change to come; computerisation. Even the WEF in its report suggests an estimate that 65% of primary school students today will end up working in jobs that don’t currently exist. As a result, it is likely that regardless of what is taught they will not be the skills most in demand in 30-40 years.

Title 
The aging population and increasing retirement age requires higher skills
Point 

The population across the developed world is aging, and this is also the case in Britain. Most pensions are paid for by the state, and in Britain that comes from National Insurance. Unfortunately, it is not the national insurance contributions you put in while working that you are redeeming when you retire. Instead current workers pay for current retirees. This system is fine when there are a large number of workers paying for the retirees pensions, but faces a crisis when this ratio drops. In 1971 there were 280 retirees for every 1000 of working age, today it is 314, and by 2032 even with an increasing retirement age it will be 349. To make matters worse there will be a 106% increase in the over 85s, those likely to be the most costly to the NHS.[1] One way to avoid this problem is if the workers of the future earn relatively more than the workers of today. As more skilled workers earn more making it mandatory to be educated to degree level would be an ideal solution to defuse the pensions time bomb. 

 

[1] ‘Aging Population’, The King’s Fund, https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/time-to-think-differently/trends/demography/ageing-population

Counterpoint 

It is precisely because the population is aging that forcing people to spend longer studying is not a good idea. All this will mean is that there will be fewer people in the workforce supporting those increasing number of retires. Instead there is an increase in the dependant population through increasing the number of students.

Title 
Young people should have the choice to decide for themselves
Point 

Everyone should have the right to choose their own path through life. Young people beyond the age of 18 are not children to have their life dictated and decided by others. They know their own interests and should be granted the ability to make their own choices. Each individual is enabled by the ability to make choices, it is part of the process of growing up to gain more autonomy and freedom of choice and the freedom to decide the path to their future is the biggest choice we give young people. They need to decide based on their own circumstances, likes and dislikes rather than the dead hand of the state imposing cookie cutter options.

The young people not wanting to be taking more education can have real consequences. In Spain when the leaving age was raised to 16 there was considerable absenteeism, not just of the students, but of staff as well – up by 10-15%. This is because the classes are much less willing to learn than previously when they all chose to take the lessons.[1] This same problem is likely to occur for the 18-21 year old age group who under this proposal have to stay in education rather than having the choice to do as they wish with their lives.

 

[1] Tickle, Louise, ‘Raising the school leaving age will make teachers ill’, theguardian.co.uk, 12 September 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/sep/12/research-notes-raising-school-leaving-age

Counterpoint 

It is precisely because it is such a big choice that it should not be left entirely to the young people to decide. Whether to continue education has a significant impact on a young person’s later life in terms of outlook, culture, and simple earning potential. When a young person reaches 18 all they can think of is not studying more. Many are not in a position to take an unbiased, rational look at their options to decide the best way forward for themselves. If they need to go on to learn more, but are left with a choice of what and how, then the danger of the choice – dropping out and not fulfilling their potential – is blunted while still allowing considerable freedom.

Title 
Unrealistically costly
Point 

Education is not free; indeed, it can be very costly. English Universities have been putting up fees, with the average expected to be £9,110 per year in 2017-18.[1] They are doing this because there is not the money from the public purse to pay for higher education. FE Colleges are being squeezed their budget dropped 11% from £5.7bln in 2010 to £5.1bn in 2014 with further cuts planned.[2] So the question is how would a big increase in student numbers be paid for? According to the OECD England already has the highest fees in the developed world (surprisingly above the USA where the average is only around £5,300)[3] so the greater cost cannot easily be forced onto the students themselves. 

 

[1] Bolton, Paul, Tuition Fee Statistics, House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper number 917, 2 December 2016, p.10. http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN00917/SN00917.pdf

[2] ‘Fixing the funding crisis’, BTC Financial Consulting, January 2016, http://www.btgfc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/1533-Further-Ed-Update_EMAIL.pdf

[3] Walker, Peter, ‘England has highest university fees in industrialised world, survey finds’, The Guardian, 24 November 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/nov/24/uk-has-highest-undergraduate-tuition-fees-in-industrialised-world-survey-finds 

Counterpoint 

Everybody realises that going further in study, in whatever way that might be, results in increasing skills which benefits the person who does this studying. The principle used in current fees for university is that the increased earnings potential provided by further study means that the students will be able to pay for their education in the future. Thus their fees are paid by low interest loans that are then paid off as an extra alongside income tax and National Insurance payments once earnings has reached a threshold of £21,000.[1] This could be applied to any expansion of the further education system.

 

[1] ‘Financial support for full-time students of higher education in 2016-17’, gov.uk, 16th September 2016, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/financial-support-for-full-time-students-of-higher-education-in-2016-to-2017/financial-support-for-full-time-students-of-higher-education-in-2016-to-2017

Title 
Not everyone is good at studying
Point 

While other options apart from degrees are being offered any qualification at level 6 is going to involve some amount of study. Study however does not suit everyone, most young people have been studying since they were 5; 13 years already. It can be no surprise that they want to move on to the next stage in life.

Many of these young people have failed to gain 5 A*-C GCSEs and will often have failed one of the most important ones of English or Maths. In 2009-10 17.4% failed to get 5 grades C or above at GCSE.[1] Going on to level 6 is surely not an option for them, or at least it is a very difficult one. Will they spend more time resitting exams trying to reach a set level? Retakes have been condemned as unproductive by the former head of the OCR exam board Mark Dawe.[2] The best option is to let them stop studying and get working.

 

[1] ‘Educational attainment at age 16’, http://www.poverty.org.uk/26/index.shtml

[2] Adams, Richard, and Weale, Sally, ‘A*-C grades in dramatic decline as GCSE results are published’, The Guardian, 25 August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/aug/25/gcse-results-dramatic-decline-grades

Counterpoint 

We agree that not everyone is suited to going to university and studying for a degree. That is why we want to offer a broad range of options for continued study and self improvement, many of which are not with an academic focus. Apprenticeships and level 6 NVQs are both based on hands on learning by doing rather than sitting through lectures. 

Title 
The economy can’t absorb a greatly upskilled workforce.
Point 

We need to face the fact that some jobs do not require a great deal of skills. A worker does not need to get a degree – or any level 6 qualification – to be a cleaner, or to flip burgers. Unfortunately, Britain has actually been shifting towards a low skilled economy with almost a 5% increase in employment share for low skilled jobs from 1996-2008.[1] What this means is raising the age of compulsory education and the demanded skill level can be detrimental to the UK economy. Employers will not be able to fill unskilled roles. At the same time there will be large numbers of skilled workers who can’t find a job that matches the skill level that they have been taught to.  

 

[1] O’Connor, Sarah, ‘UK Economy shows shift to low skilled jobs, research finds’, Financial Times, 19th January 2015, https://www.ft.com/content/6a8544ae-9d9e-11e4-8ea3-00144feabdc0

Counterpoint 

We need to consider the jobs market of the future, not the jobs market of the present – or almost 10 years ago. An increase in low skilled jobs is likely only temporary; increasing automation will see to that. There are many areas where automation could eliminate or reduce low skilled jobs; in supermarkets we already see a decline in numbers manning tills due to increases in self service check outs. The courier economy has been booming, but will this job be as in demand once self driving cars are commonplace?

Having a skilled workforce does not guarantee that jobs with high skills will be created, but it does make it more likely. Many will set up their own companies, and international companies will only bring skilled jobs if they know the workforce has the necessary skills or flexibility for them.

Title 
Compulsory studying would be taking young people out of the workforce
Point 

Since Brexit young people have been touted as a potential source of casual labour to replace migrants from Eastern Europe who many assume will be less able to come to the UK.[1] However this policy will be taking one of the groups that could easily increase their participation in the workforce out of it. Instead of compensating for a loss of migrant labour young people will be spending longer studying rather than working.

At the same time there is less opportunity for Saturday work because of changes in the working culture over the last couple of years. Working has increasingly become flexible, or sometimes zero hours, rather than 9-5 during the week. As a result there is no longer such demand for a company to have a different group of workers to cover the weekend; the one area where full time students can easily fill in.[2] With regards to 16-17 year olds there was a decline from 42% having a part time job in 1997 to 18% in 2014.[3] There are numerous factors behind this but wanting to focus on studies is one of them – and during this time education became compulsory to 17 showing that young people will be less willing to work and study.

Making more education compulsory will hurt the economy by depriving it of much needed labour.

 

[1] Quinn, Ben, ‘Help us fix Brexit labour shortage with Saturday jobs, say employers’, The Guardian, 1st April 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/01/saturday-jobs-brexit-labour-shortage-young-people

[2] Wallace, Tim, ‘UK needs migrants as young Britons ‘have bizarre attitudes to work’, The Telegraph, 8th March 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/03/08/uk-needs-migrants-young-brits-have-bizarre-attitudes-work/

[3] Conlon, Gavin et al., ‘The Death of the Saturday Job’, UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/435285/15.06.15._DOTSJ_Report_design_final_EDIT.pdf

Counterpoint 

The increasing flexibility of working highlighted also shows exactly how making education compulsory will make little difference to the workforce. Most students do not study from 9 to 5 as if it were work. They are flexible, and can fit a flexible part time or zero hours work schedule around their studying. Flexibility of study also means that the decline of the Saturday job has little impact; students can do their study, revision, and essay writing at the weekends leaving evenings or other times during the week free if that is what suits employers.

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