Britain needs more emphasis on practical, job-related subjects in universities, a study suggests

Britain's universities should run fewer courses in academic subjects in favour of more vocational, employment-related areas, according to a new survey.

The opinion poll, carried out by the Policy Exchange think-tank in conjunction with research company YouGov, discovered that fewer than one in five people thought universities were offering the correct balance of courses and 55% were of the opinion that practical subjects were more useful than traditional academic ones in finding jobs and careers.

The findings support the conclusions of an independent review into apprenticeships held by entrepreneur Doug Richard, who has urged the Government to implement changes to improve the quality of apprenticeships and similar work-based learning for jobseekers.

The Policy Exchange research took in the opinions of 1,624 people and nearly half of them (47%) said there was also insufficient practical and job-related training in British schools for youngsters below the age of 16, and too much emphasis on academic subjects such as maths, English, geography, history and the sciences.

The Government has already moved to improve secondary education by introducing a new English Baccalaureate in favour of GCSEs from September 2015 "to raise aspirations and restore rigour to our examinations", according to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

With the worrying fact that around one in three students are currently dropping out of A-level courses, experts like Dr Owen Corrigan, an education research fellow at Policy Exchange, believe more alternative routes into the workplace and further and higher education should be explored.

He said that the poll findings provided clear evidence that people want more job-related, practical learning in education and he confirmed that other European countries were seeing the benefits of strong technical and vocational education systems with lower unemployment among young people.

Mr Richard, the founder of the School for Startups social enterprise, recently said it was vital that apprenticeships featured quality training and were of real value to both the apprentices and employers involved.

He said it should not be a surprise if an 18-year-old were to turn down a prestigious offer of an Oxbridge place in favour of an apprenticeship if they thought it was the right path for them.

Copyright Press Association 2012