Friday 5: Brianna Ghey, Trailblazer deals for skills, Numbers of overseas students, young people’s wealth inequality and what overseas students do when they graduate


17th February 2023

It’s been another busy week in the world of education and youth policy! Read and share our rapid summary of the key stories below.

1.The tragic murder of Brianna Ghey serves as a devastating reminder of the high risk of violence faced by transgender children

The country was shocked this week by the death of trans teenager, Brianna Ghey. The 16-year old is believed to have been murdered by peers, and police are currently exploring the possibility that the act may have been a hate crime. Her murder is a devastating reminder of the risk of violence faced by transgender people. Transgender young people are twice as likely to be victims of crime as their non-transgender peers, while 64% experience bullying for being LGBT while at school or college. Two thirds do not feel like they receive adequate support from their teachers, and around 40% of trans young people surveyed by Stonewall had attempted suicide.

Shocking killings of young people have a history of creating public narratives that policymakers must respond to through institutional reform. The horrifying murder of Victoria Climbié led to the reforms to child protection embedded in the Every Child Matters initiative and 2004 Children Act; the murder of Stephen Lawrence led to an inquiry that was followed by changes to the law and policing practice. There remains scope for this tragedy to cause the policy and practice change trans young people desperately need to allow them to live in safety.

2. New ‘Trailblazer’ deals will give the Metropolitan Mayors of Greater Manchester and The West Midlands the power to set their own local education and skills agenda

There’s some new commentary from The Institute for Government on the progress of the Levelling Up white paper. The new blog concludes with a look at how new ‘Trailblazer’ deals between the West Midlands and Greater Manchester metropolitan areas and Westminster will give Metro mayors in those areas more power over local skills policy.

West Midlands Metro Mayor, Andy Street, discussed the skills related aims of these Trailblazer deals in a recent piece in FE Week. Street argued that the deals will:

  • Give metro mayors a large, single unringfenced pot of funding for developing and delivering plans for improving skills in local populations (as opposed to multiple smaller ringfenced pots as is currently the case)
  • Improve coordination between local combined authorities and the National Careers Services and the Careers and Enterprise Company to improve the standard of careers guidance and placement in metropolitan areas
  • Focus funding and investment to overcome underfunding of Further Education in the regions

While plans for transferring power from Westminster to Metro Mayors is broadly a good thing, this needs to be accompanied by a similar transfer of accountability measures on spending – for example, making Metro Mayors responsible to the Public Accounts Committee that oversees Westminster.

You can read the Institute for Government’s commentary here and the FE report on ‘Trailblazer’ deals here.

3. The Department for Education is resisting the Home Office’s plans to curb the number of overseas students in UK Higher Education

A new article in The Financial Times captures a current tension between the Department for Education and the Home Office over the number of overseas students in Higher Education.

The Home Office has been considering plans to make it more difficult for overseas students to study in the UK since the end of 2022. Plans include making it harder for overseas students to acquire visas for spouses, increasing the income threshold required to qualify for a student visa and reducing the time after graduation that visas remain valid for.

However, Gillian Keegan has responded to these proposals by emphasizing the UK’s HE system as a “great advert for the country” and an important economic success. Nonetheless, she has stated an openness to tightening parameters over whether student visas are granted for ‘low quality’ courses.

Keegan is right to note that the British HE system is a significant source of soft power abroad. However, with suggestions that the government plan to lean into ‘culture wars’ issues as part of their strategy for the next election, it’s likely that the issue of overseas students may end up embroiled in this.

Read the article in the Financial Times here.

4. Children from wealthier families are more likely to receive an inheritance from their parents while they are still alive, contributing to growing wealth inequality

A new IFS report looks at transfers of intergenerational wealth during life. Considerable growth in house prices since the mid-1990s has helped drive a ‘wealth boom’, which has disproportionately benefited older generations. This, combined with slow wage growth and increasing life expectancies, has put the spotlight on during-life wealth transfers.

Most transfers flow from the old to the young, with those aged 25-34 most likely to receive a transfer and more than two-thirds of gifts received coming from recipients’ parents. With this in mind, The IFS followed a cohort of young adults, initially aged 19-28, over eight years, comparing transfers they received with total income and wealth at the end of the period.

Certain life events are associated with gift receipt. For instance, gift receipt rates among those who move into homeownership are 16%, compared to 6% of those who are similar but do not. Over half the value of gifts received is reportedly used for property purchase or improvement, with an even higher share for those with homeowning parents.

The IFS note that if such transfers allow those from wealthier backgrounds to access houses (and other high-value assets), while the less well-off spend a greater share of transfers on day-to-day expenses, this could affect future inequalities in wealth and living standards.

You can read the full report here.

5. A new study finds that around three quarters of international students who stay in the UK are in graduate-level positions

The Association for Graduate Careers and Advisory Services (AGCAS) analysed a survey of 345 graduates on either a Graduate route or a Skilled Worker visa, all of whom had completed their studies at a UK university after 1st July 2021.

While their job roles varied, 72% of those employed via the Graduate route were in a grad-level role. As covered in Times Higher Education, this appears to counter the Home Secretary’s claim that foreign students work in so-called low-skilled jobs.

The research does, however, highlight concerning unemployment figures, with 26% of respondents reportedly unemployed. Focus groups with international graduates cited various barriers to employment, including lack of employer knowledge, employer preference for candidates that would not require sponsorship, and visa issues.

AGCAS call for a collective effort to ensure the UK continues to be competitive in terms of graduate recruitment. They recommend that the government do more to promote the Graduate route (and other immigration routes) to employers, with clear guidance to allay any fears around perceived risks.

Read the full report here.

Read the Times Higher Education article here.

That’s all for this week! If you found this blog useful, please be sure to share/tweet it and follow @theCfEY@Barristotle and @billyhubt for future editions.