Labour’s new exciting education policy

Let’s bring back City and Guilds.

Universities will run a new range of German-style “technical degrees” under Labour plans to target school leavers who shun traditional academic subjects.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will outline proposals to encourage top universities to develop high-level practical courses in subjects such as engineering and technology.

Sigh.

34 comments on “Labour’s new exciting education policy

  1. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will outline proposals to encourage top universities to develop high-level practical courses in subjects such as engineering and technology.

    So why not just do an engineering degree instead? Or if the course focuses on practical skills, why the hell would a “top university” be running the course? Not to mention that the whole plan assumes there are enough technical jobs out there for people with practical skills but no engineering degree…

  2. If a ‘top university’ is involve, then the courses will be in no way practical, and more importantly still cost the same as any other uni education.

    Employers now expect engineering degrees as a minimum, try getting a job with just an HNC/D.

  3. The first thing that will be needed is students with a sound understanding of maths, physics and IT. If they don’t have that then even the top universities are pissing in the wind.

  4. The socialists in Spain are exactly the same.

    Your Eddie is floundering around trying to find something to justify people voting for him when the only reason might be to get rid of the others. Here we have three non-entities trying to find a reason for members to vote for them to lead the party. No hint of a grand vision, no policy, just that the country needs the socialist party.

    If you want a two party system, they are right.

    There is no real social difference with the social democrat ‘right’ and they (the ‘right’) are better on the economy (not good, just better). There is now no real room for socialists.They have become irrelevant and like all true gravy-trainers that is hard to accept.

  5. Just read the actual article, it’s just out and out nuts. they destroyed the polytechnics by turning them into second rate uni’s and now they are going to turn the uni’s into second rate polytechnics!

  6. We’ve been invaded haven’t we?

    I don’t know where they’ve come from, but a whole load of complete nutters have arrived on Earth with the sole purpose of turning us all barmy.

    Just this morning, we have this, Bercow and the BBC equating calling people “shorty” equivalent to racsim, a baking firm being prosecuted for not baking a pro-gay marriage cake and Christians saying scrap Christian school assemblies.

    The cake one really gets me. Sesame Street characters (didn’t they used to do numbers and letters?) are promoting gay marriage. So if you grope a 15 year old its a vile crime, but 5 and 7 year olds need to learn about botty burglars?

    I have to read the meedja and watch the telly in minute doses nowadays. The blood pressure…

  7. The number of politicians and other “opinion formers” with technical qualifications, or skills, or understanding, is negligible. They do not understand technical things or technical industries. Neither do they understand the blue collar world, or the people who inhabit it. They may as well be explorers in pith helmets with baffled expressions observing natives in Bongo Bongo Land. The only model they have for progress through life is their own, including (particularly) those wonderful days at “uni” where they first embarked on their political careers by standing for the Junior Common Room committee. So that’s all they can think of suggesting.

  8. In my opinion, the entire world view of universities is the exact opposite of reality. Universities are not & never have been for the dissemination of learning. They have always been for the restriction & control of it.
    And of late, they’ve pretty well managed, with the aid of government, to establish an absolute monopoly. It’s now almost impossible to acquire any body of knowledge or skill that’s of any practical use unless it’s been validated by the university system.
    Pull it down, bulldoze the ruins, salt the earth it stood on.

  9. Utter garbage from Labour, as normal. We don’t need this. We need an improved current system, but better the old system (Unis for the academic stuff and – why oh why were they renamed – polytechnics and technical colleges for the practical stuff).

    And what is the real difference between a two tier higher education system offering academic and practical courses and a two tier school system – grammar schools for academic pupils and comprehensive for the rest?

    Left-wing dogma from Miliband and a front bench that are a complete shambolic embarrassment.

  10. John Miller – From the Daily Mail: “Mr Bercow, 51, said he was ‘never bothered about being short'”

    Lying little bastard. I’ve never come across a midget who didn’t try too hard to make up for his gnome-like stature with ridiculous excess belligerence.

    and Christians saying scrap Christian school assemblies

    Well, the Church of England is saying that anyway. What does the CofE believe in these days? Droning on about climate change, multiculturalism, and recent op-eds from The Guardian to the decrepit and the bewildered. The days of Muscular Christianity are long gone.

  11. No one at all knows how much education is necesary for any individual. No one knows what type of education is best for anyone. Certainly no politician, Civil Servant or administator can have any idea, never having met any of the individuals concerned.
    Teachers have some idea for their own class, but even they have limitted contact for a short time with each pupil.
    The decision should be made by parents, after listening to teachers’ advice, since parents know their own child better than anyone else does and have vastly more interest in the outcome.
    Open an educational account for every child in the country, and place therin every year the child’s share of the education budget. All spending from the acount to be earmarked for education until the “child” reaches maturity, when whatever is left simply becomes his money.
    Then the people authorising the payments will have skin in the game, and overall far better decisions will be made.
    I would expect that the cost of education will fall as there will be some point in shopping around for price. I would expect some pupils to leave early where they are clearly floundering, and a cash bonus at eighteen is more use than sitting there not understanding . I would expect some parents to add their own money to the taxpayers’ to enable what we now call private education for more people. And I would expect the range of subjects to expand to meet the demands of real people- driving lessons would be an obvious addition given the number of people who depend on driving skills for their income.

  12. @Tim Newman: an engineering degree is actually quite hard, and should not be confused with the intellectual demands of being a competent technician.

    The average practical technician, for example, is neither going to understand nor ever need second order differential equations. Those of us who do, in our work as a chartered professional engineers, would not want the basic degree course watered down yet further to give the magic letters B.Eng to people who really should be HNDs and HNCs. (Which used to be excellent qualifications, though oddly seem no longer fashionable.)

    That said, judging by some of the recent engineering graduates I have encountered standards have certainly dropped over the last 30 years, to the point where they do not seem to be as capable as the HNDs I knew in the late 70s.

  13. “We need….Unis for the academic stuff and polytechnics and technical colleges for the practical stuff”

    Puts me in mind of a bemused afternoon spent in Central London.
    I’ve mentioned here before, in what now seems an earlier & different life, I spent a couple of years learning to be a fairly competent gold & silversmith. Learnt at the bench, on the job, the practical skills of making & repairing jewellery. By chance I happened across something describing itself as an “Exhibition of Jewellery & Design”, which I gather was the collected exhibition pieces from students of the nation’s art colleges & university departments. Quite honestly, there weren’t more than half a dozen pieces in the entire lot worth a glance. Almost complete absence of any demonstration of the technical skills the craft requires.
    And with jewellery, like so much design, good design itself is driven by a knowledge of the materials & the techniques employed. Always has been. I’ve done restoration work on pieces originating in Byzantine & medieval workshops & it’s obvious how the finished items are derived from the skills & tools available to their makers. It’s actually how one knows how to restore them. By reverse engineering the processes created them.
    And this works with all design. If you don’t understand the limitations of the making of injection molds you’ll never successfully design an item to be injection molded in plastic. If you don’t understand how to build a house, you’re a long way from being a competent architect.
    Couple of years back I wanted to make a couple pieces for a friend. I don’t now have the tools but I managed to talk a local into the use of some bench time in return for catching up his repair backlog. It’s like riding a bike. You never lose it, It soon comes back. Previously, I’d inquired about using the facilities at colleges, for the same purpose. Might as well not of bothered. The people teaching the courses hadn’t even heard of the tools I was looking for, let alone had any understanding what I needed them for.
    What’s the point of academic departments unable to teach what it says on their labels?

  14. Isn’t this what the foundation degree was introduced for? Why is EdM trying to reinvent the wheel that Labour invented?

    I don’t see how people who shun academic learning are going to be compatible with ‘high-level technical courses’. At some point, those students are going to have to draw on the need for English language, problem-solving or mathematical skills. Even on a foundation degree, you’re going to need to be able to report on your work throughout. Unless EdM is planning on handing out ‘technical degrees’ without the need for essays and reports for assessment?

    BnIS – a criticism I’ve occasionally come across of design-oriented degrees is that they are increasingly focused on ancillary disciplines like marketing and business at the expense of core skills like sketching and the development of ideas creatively. I think there’s some validity to that, particularly as students increasingly don’t see the relevance of sketching and want to jump straight to digital tools for ideation.

  15. ” students increasingly don’t see the relevance of sketching and want to jump straight to digital tools for ideation.”

    Well done those students. It’s the arty-farty stuff bedevils good design. The great thing about digital is you’re actually working in real 3-dimensional space. Sketching is based on sleight of hand & optical illusion. Try turning artistic impression into concrete reality, sometime, & you’ll understand what I mean.

  16. @Tim Newman: an engineering degree is actually quite hard, and should not be confused with the intellectual demands of being a competent technician.

    I agree, but I’m not sure how many jobs are around (meaning, open positions) for competent technicians. Some for sure, but probably not enough to justify railroading thousands of people in that direction, hence my remark that anyone of that ilk might be better served going the whole hog and getting an engineering degree. And if they’re not smart enough to do that, then it’s kind of tough luck: doing the course won’t magically make jobs appear.

    Those of us who do, in our work as a chartered professional engineers, would not want the basic degree course watered down yet further to give the magic letters B.Eng to people who really should be HNDs and HNCs.

    I never bothered with the chartership – IMechE – seeing it as an utter waste of time, but my civil colleagues all got chartered as they had a much better program in place. I rely on the MEng, which might have been watered down in the UK but still stands me in good stead for work visa applications in far flung corners of the developing world such as Nigeria and Australia.

  17. Sebastian Weetabix
    July 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    The average practical technician, for example, is neither going to understand nor ever need second order differential equations. Those of us who do, in our work as a chartered professional engineers, would not want the basic degree course watered down yet further to give the magic letters B.Eng to people who really should be HNDs and HNCs. (Which used to be excellent qualifications, though oddly seem no longer fashionable.)

    Well this Telecoms and Electrical Engineering HND graduate (1985) certainly did second order differential equations, and Laplace transformations for that matter, and used them after qualification although not often. Furthermore. my niece who was doing a Computer Science degree at the time reckoned I did more academic work in the 18 months of my course than she did in the 3 years of hers.

    OK mine was a Royal Signals course which now gets a degree and there’s no way we would get 3 university years with all that time off to do the same work, but the point stands.

  18. BnIS,

    It sounds like you’ve misunderstood the ideation aspect of sketching for concepts, rather than using it for architecture or detail aspects of design activities.

    It seems a bit arrogant to dismiss a crucial part of a designer’s thinking process as ‘arty-farty’, much like the common assumption that sketching for ideation is primarily for aesthetic purposes and communicating ideas to everyone else.

  19. “… to develop high-level practical courses in subjects such as engineering and technology.”

    Which will of course contain additional theoretical diversity bollocks at a proportion of 30:70 (if you’re lucky).

  20. @James
    No, I dislike “the ideation aspect of sketching for concepts,” Intensely.
    Start with what you’re trying to achieve & how you’re going to achieve it.. Work out what space this will occupy & it’s relationship to things around it. Only then do you start worrying what it’s going to look like.
    Most of the time it’ll generate a pleasing design on its own.

  21. Only then do you start worrying what it’s going to look like.

    That isn’t what sketching is necessarily concerned with, though. Like I said, there’s a common assumption that sketching primarily serves an aesthetic purpose. It is exactly for working out “how you’re going to achieve it”.

  22. …far flung corners of the developing world such as Nigeria and Australia.

    You’ve got a thing about the Aussies, Tim, I can tell.

  23. ” (Sketching) … is exactly for working out “how you’re going to achieve it”.”
    Er….. How it’s achieved is an engineering concept.
    Maybe vectors, thrust lines, load paths, turning radii… Then come use paths, access paths… The skeleton any good design’s hung on.

  24. If your approach to design is to bypass concept generation and architecture for a novel artefact, and head straight for its final configuration and geometry on-screen, that’s obviously what works for you.

    I used to be as dismissive of sketching, until I started to appreciate the value of it. A fundamentally important part of that appreciation was to understand that sketching isn’t exclusively the superficial prettifying of a design.

  25. James. Let’s try & explain it like this:
    If one wanted to design a human being one would start with the points a human being touched its environment, how those points moved in relationship to each other & the forces could be exerted through them. One would go on to work out the skeletal structure needed to connect those points, sustain the stresses required & the joints required to produce the required articulation. Now come the muscles & muscle attachment to provide the force, Then we hang the the digestive & respiratory systems provide the energy & all the bits & pieces does the other things humans do. At this point, one might be able to do a rough sketch how all this would look from the outside but so far it’s been geometry, math & some chemistry throw in.
    There’s no guarantee this would look like a existent human being of course. It’s a different design for the same function. But it would function exactly like a human being.
    From a sketch of a human being you can derive anything from a stone statue to an inflatable doll. But it won’t actually do anything apart from just stand there.

  26. We need to bring back Technical Colleges, like I went to in the late 60’s, then dropped out cos its was boring, then 30 years later went to a Polyversity and got a 2:1 degree and now I’m a chartered surveyor.

    Seriously though, if we are to have an engineering trade or profession, it will need pretty clever people to drive machines as well as do all the clever design stuff. A technical college provided those drivers, but was never fashionable.

  27. “bloke (not) in spain” – I thought that producing human beings was the one thing that untrained people did rather well.

  28. I think I’d probably do an initial sketch of my idea for a bilaterally symmetric bipedal device with two grasping manipulators attached high up and a combined sensory unit at the top, if I were God.

  29. As the current human design spec doesn’t require the ability to climb trees, Ian, attaching the manipulators lower down would simplify the spine construction. But the human “design’s” been evolution’s ongoing response to operational requirements. There never was a guy in orange trainers & a collarless shirt gushing about ideation. With or without beard.

  30. There’s a lot of design flaws that evolution couldn’t deal with because it works with what mutations it gets on the previous model. The weakness that allows hernia in the male variant is a good example.

  31. Actually, Ian, you’ve rather hit on the core of the argument I was making above, about design. This “artistic little sketch of what next year’s model will look like” method works the same way. Next year’s model will look much the same as last years model but with rounded corners. In white. Because that sort of designer is only doing cosmetics
    But we don’t have to do that. We can design from a blank page around exactly what is wished to be achieved. Incorporate past lessons learned. Discard previous mistakes.

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