Rishi Sunak has pledged to phase out university degrees that don’t improve students’ “earning potential”, create a Russell Group of world-class technical colleges and introduce a UK Baccalaureate that would keep 16-year-olds out to drop math and English.
The Conservative leadership hopeful said his plans for post-16 education reform marked “a significant step towards parity of esteem between vocational and university education”.
If he becomes the next prime minister, Sunak will strengthen the networks of technical institutions and their links to industry, while giving them the power to award degrees, his campaign said.
The former chancellor would assess university degrees by their dropout rates, number of graduate jobs and salary thresholds, except for nursing and other courses with high social value.
In an apparent attempt to appeal to the right, Sunak’s campaign said he would also fast-track the Higher Education (Free Speech) Bill, which is in the House of Lords.
The government has argued the bill is needed to tackle growing intolerance in universities, but opponents said it aims to address a problem that does not exist and could protect hate speech.
Sunak also pledged to improve the professional development of teachers, commit to plans to open 75 new free schools announced by the government in June and give school trusts a ‘responsibility leave’ for two years. after taking over underperforming schools.
It would also work to expand the use of artificial intelligence and digital technology in classrooms and reduce teachers’ workloads.
Sunak said, “A good education is the closest we have to a magic bullet when it comes to improving people’s lives.
“These proposals represent a significant step towards parity of esteem between professional and academic education. And they will take a tougher approach to college degrees that put students in debt, without improving their earning potential.
“I will also take bold, practical steps to build on the successful conservative education reforms of the past decade by harnessing technology and improving the quality of teaching in underperforming areas.
“Every child deserves a world-class education and, if I become prime minister, I will make it my mission from day one to make sure that’s what they get.”
The former chancellor would also create a new UK Baccalaureate which would require pupils to continue studying core subjects such as maths and English until they finish school at 18.
In an interview with The Times, he criticized the “too narrow specialization” of the current curriculum, which he said does not prepare young people for “the economy of tomorrow”.
“We are almost unique in the western world, for an advanced economy and all successful education systems, to allow people to drop out of math and stop studying their mother tongue at 16,” he said. told the newspaper.
“In Germany, in France, in Asia, young people study mathematics until they are 18 and in the functioning of a modern economy, I think it will hold us back if our young people do not have these skills.”
After private studies at Winchester College, where he was head boy, and a degree in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, Sunak completed an MBA at Stanford University in California.
Her conservative leadership rival, Liz Truss, has presented herself as the ‘Prime Minister of Education’ with a plan to replace failing academies with new free schools, and a promise that students with the highest grades A would receive an automatic invitation to an interview at Oxford or Cambridge – which has raised questions about whether the academic year timetable should be changed.