We witnessed over 50 universities and colleges across the UK come together to promote the value and benefits of higher education as part of our national Make Your Future Happen: Discover Higher Education campaign (12-18 October 2013).
Throughout the week, universities and colleges threw open their doors for open days and public events to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to consider applying to university or college. It's a great example of the Government and higher education sector working collaboratively.
The creativity and breadth of activities across the sector was outstanding. Coventry University announced the first "faculty on the factory floor" in partnership with manufacturing group Unipart. University Alliance empowered teachers to support their pupils in accessing opportunities at university and beyond. The University of Manchester ran a public lecture from one of its prominent astrophysicists, Professor Tim O'Brien. Bradford College hosted higher education awareness presentations in local schools. And Oxford Brookes hosted a 'Passport Day' to raise the aspirations of young people and to inform them about higher education.
Higher education is a truly transformative experience. Universities and colleges equip people with the necessary skills to reason and enquire about the world around them and provide them with knowledge demanded by employers.
Throughout the campaign sporting heroes shared their own experiences of higher education via social media. Former English rugby union player, and Durham University graduate, Will Greenwood MBE tweeted that he had 'the time of my life' at university. England and Sales Sharks rugby player, Mark Cueto commented that he had a 'great time' at Manchester Metropolitan University and that 'it was hard work, but I made some great friends & great memories'. Gold medallist Sophie Christiansen spoke of how she juggled competing for the Paralympic Games whilst studying at Royal Holloway, University of London. And TV presenter & commentator Giles Long MBE, a University of Leeds graduate who went on to become a three times Paralympics swimming gold medallist, shared that he 'had an amazing time' at university and 'got a good education'.
Higher education can work for anyone, at any age. It is based on your ability to learn, not your ability to pay. To ensure that all prospective students know this, our Student Finance Tour, now in its third year, travels across the country, meeting with teachers, pupils and parents to explain the financial support available.
Higher education brings many personal benefits to graduates and their families. Over their lifetime, graduates earn considerably more than people with A-levels who do not study at a higher level. The graduate premium has remained at comfortably over £100,000 despite the growth in the number of graduates and a recent study showed that women who progress to university can expect to boost their lifetime earnings by £250,000, and men by £165,000.
We are delighted to see that students are making more informed decisions about university, comparing universities, course offerings and teaching through Unistats. As a result more students are getting their first choice university than ever before.
This is just a snapshot of the activity delivered through this week-long campaign and I hope that it has highlighted the value of higher education to anyone considering their next steps. If you're yet to decide if higher education is the right route for you, there is a wealth of resources available to help you make an informed decision.