UCAS Head Warns of Challenges Facing The Higher Education Sector

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17th September 2018

Business leaders gathered for the final Three Counties BIG Breakfast of the season on Thursday 13 September and heard from Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, of the changing landscape of higher education and the challenges and opportunities faced by the next generation.

In post as Chief Executive at UCAS for just over a year and before that Chief Executive of Worcestershire County Council, Clare highlighted that the overall number of students entering higher education looks set to fall for the second year running in 2018.  However, she added that demand from English 18 year olds continued to rise with around a third of UK 18 year olds entering higher education each year making up around 45% of the total number of entrants.

Clearly passionate about getting young people work ready, she confirmed that the UK higher education system is still a very attractive option to the global market although she warned that there are challenges ahead and the three counties is not exempt from these.

Clare warned of an outflow of ‘B’ grade students leaving Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire to seek out the bright lights and higher education establishments in larger towns and cities and of ‘C’ graders entering.  This issue is exacerbated by those students leaving the three counties not returning for a substantial length of time, presenting a skill set shortage for local employers.

Higher education is still very much a buyers’ market but Clare warned that this is set to change from 2023 depending on what happens domestically in the UK and with the much-debated Brexit.  Sadly, equality in higher education has seen no significant improvement since 2014 but in 2017 women remained 35% more likely to enter higher education than men.

The Three Counties BIG Breakfasts are held in association with partners Bruton Knowles, Harrison Clark Rickerbys and the West Midlands branch of the Institute of Directors.  Bringing together business leaders and entrepreneurs from across the region, attendees enjoy a hearty cooked breakfast with beautiful views over the Malvern Hills.  There’s a chance to meet other delegates through networking prior to the breakfast as well as listen to the business issues raised by the key speaker and ask any questions.

Suzy Hillier, Head of Commercial at Three Counties, commented: “Today’s BIG Breakfast was the last of the season for 2019 and Clare’s presentation was both interesting and informative.  It’s clear we need to do more to retain the young home-grown talent of the three counties and Clare’s talk provided great food for thought in terms of how we can set about achieving this.”

Chris Eldridge, Marketing Director, at Bruton Knowles added: We’re delighted to have welcomed Clare Marchant to Three Counties Showground today for our business breakfast. Clare shared some interesting insights into Higher Education and the clearing process and I am sure our guests today will have enjoyed listening to her speak.”

Robert Capper, Partner at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, summarised: “Clare offered an insight into not only UCAS and the higher education sector but also millennials and social media.  Fascinating and thought provoking in a variety of ways and on a number of different levels. The Three Counties BIG Breakfast at its best.”

Image: Left to right: Chris Eldridge, Marketing Director, Bruton Knowles, Suzy Hillier, Head of Commerical, Three Counties, Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, Robert Capper, Partner at Harrison Clark Rickerbys