A “black hole” in careers and university advice has recently been found and complained about by a philanthropist who renamed a Cambridge college with a £30 million donation.
Five years ago, New Hall accepted a donation from Steve Edwards and his wife, Ros, who had studied there, thus renaming the school to Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Mr. Edwards disclosed that he had met a lot of professionals who, at one time, were given bizarre advice and scant support for university application. He said that a career adviser at one Lincolshire school advised all the girls to work in a bank and all the boys to join the army.
Hence the website bestcourse4me.com was founded by this couple to provide free information to young people. This site allows these people to match university degrees and jobs with numerous data on A-level grades and subjects needed and its likely salary.
It shows, for example, that degrees in the sciences, maths, economics, engineering and technology lead in general to higher income over a lifetime. But, Mr Edwards points out, if someone wants to be a dancer there is a dance degree at Bath Spa from which 40 per cent of graduates are working in dance-related jobs within six months.
Degrees in subjects such as forensic science and journalism have poorer progression rates to careers, it shows.
Mr Edwards said: “What we do fill is this black hole of reliable information.”
Research among the 120,000 annual users of the site suggests that only 25 per cent are really interested in a degree subject, between 10 and 15 per cent want a particular career but more than 50 per cent lack a clear sense of direction.
He and his wife have focused on philanthropy since he sold his IT company Geneva Technology for $700 million in 2001. Mr Edwards, who was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, studied physics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. They both attended state schools, which Mr Edwards said motivated them to try to extend opportunities for young people from modest families to attend university.
His criticisms were echoed by John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, who told the Grammar School Heads Association conference yesterday that careers advice was “on life support” in many areas. He said teenagers should be given face-to-face careers advice by the National Careers Service.