Golden hellos await debt-laden students

The Government’s decision to make students pay some of their tuition fees will hasten changes to sponsorship and graduate recruitment programmes run by engineering firms. The Dearing Committee’s vision of the UK higher education system, published yesterday, recommends students contribute more to the cost of higher education, and that graduates in work make a contribution […]

The Government’s decision to make students pay some of their tuition fees will hasten changes to sponsorship and graduate recruitment programmes run by engineering firms.

The Dearing Committee’s vision of the UK higher education system, published yesterday, recommends students contribute more to the cost of higher education, and that graduates in work make a contribution over time of £1,000 a year towards the cost of a typical three-year degree.

Ann Bailey, head of education and training at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said the move could result in `golden hellos’, higher graduate entry salaries that help pay off student loans.

British Aerospace has already started offering higher salaries to atract top students.

Bailey said it was unlikely there would be more pre-graduation sponsorship schemes, although demand looks set to rise. `Recently, traditional sponsorship has had a low conversion rate and a number of companies have already cut back their involvement or pulled out altogether, preferring sandwich courses, other forms of work experience and vacation work,’ she said.

Companies and trade associations have dismissed suggestions that the extra financial burden will cause a reduction in the number of students sponsored.

`Sponsorship is dictated by the employment needs of the division rather than a fixed pot of money,’ said Chris Rogan, head of education and strategic liaison at BAe Military Aircraft and Aerostructures. It sponsors 140 students a year.

Several engineering executives welcomed fees. John Berkeley, Rover Group’s manager for education, said a fee system might encourage more candidates to take up engineering. `Paying the fee will concentrate the candidate’s mind more closely on what he or she is going to do at the end of the course.’