Does the UK have snobbish attitudes towards technical education?

Updated: May 6

By Chloe Olivia Sladden

Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, once said the nation was full of “technical education snobs” who saw university as the only way to gain a decent job. Although, where does this place universities?

Due to the dual training opportunities in Germany, where students learn with companies two-thirds of the time and only learn at college, a third of the time – a system held in high esteem, according to a Guardian article by Anne Fazackerley.

University of Hertfordshire Vice Chancellor, Quentin McKellar and Hamburg’s University of Technology’s Dutch President, Ed Brinksma about such vocational or technical training/education.

The University of Hertfordshire has a lot of industry expertise in its courses and has high employability with 96.6% of graduates in employment or further education after six months. The University hopes to become “the UK’s leading business-like university” and be known for this, on a global scale.

The Hamburg University of Technology has a empathise on engineering related subjects, and has pride in being “research led and entrepreneurial”. Also, 34% of the university’s graduates gained employment and 58% of graduates were studying for master’s degrees in 2016.

The article poses the question of whether snobbery in the UK is stopping us from having the same success with technical education, like Germany.

Ed Brinksma has said Hamburg encourages and promotes the dual training schemes at colleges to students. The article comments on how this shows: “the high regard for vocational training [that] leads to exemplary results in youth unemployment, as well as highly skilled workers”.

The article adds: “There is still some degree of social stratification” when it comes to university goers and similar education of their parents. It is much less in Germany than in the UK but is still there.

Quintin McKellar, however, is hopeful for vocational training future in the UK. He has said that: “totally different outlook” is gained from post-1992 university, which make up the newer universities in the UK.

He adds: “We’ve got these amazing schemes with big companies but if you speak to many politicians they say degree apprenticeships are just for people from disadvantaged backgrounds without proper attainment. And that’s just not true. They should be for people at all skill levels”.

The question of should people aim for university or college is also there. A post 18 education review from the prime minister is suggested to be pushing further education more.

Quentin McKellar has said: ”[he is] a huge advocate” for furthering education. He says college do well despite their lowering resources but fears what this could mean.

McKellar has said he is not against the 50/50 split between on the job and college courses and then universities. Although he feels strongly that it shouldn’t target universities but those who are not studying.

A rumoured leak from the review, as told in the; has suggested not allowing students with low grades to apply for University loans. McKellar said: “I think it would be a tragedy for the people who were no longer able to access higher education, but also a tragedy for the country”.

Back in Hamburg, Germany, it appears that the number of university students vs on the job/college students has slighted declined; but Ed Brinksma has said this hasn’t sparked any worries, and despite free tuition, there are no plans to discourage university students. He said, Germany used to have scholars when the university system wasn’t doing as well, but Germany has seen invested excellence into universities.

Brinksma commented that: “I think they are still supporting the growth of universities….We need a lot of skilled workers – but modern society needs higher education as well”.

He reflects on the future of more further education for more people, and asks: “Will the modern student just do one master’s degree? Or will they want to come back later and do a succession of courses as they need to learn different skills?”

This contrasts to the UK, where the Labour Party stopped people from doing this in 2007 and Brinksma, suggests in Germany too, that the reason for doing so is who would pay for it?