Why the Russell Group isn't the only option

By Els Howard-Polman, Educational Consultant for Pearson Business School

Over three hundred thousand students will have entered higher education for the first time this year in the hope that the qualifications they gain will eventually land them their dream job. In a competitive graduate employment market many claim that the reputation or league table ranking of the university you choose is the only important factor.

Teachers or advisers are often encouraged to focus on the "big brand" universities. As schools collect data on how many pupils are sent to Russell Group universities to measure excellence that will feed into their league tables this may drive behaviour of schools and the advice they give their students.

The Russell Group was formed in 1994 by 17 public universities; by 2012, 7 more universities had joined. These universities all share a focus on intensive research and academic achievement, putting a large amount of their funding into this. Russell Group universities are frequently perceived as the top 24 universities in the UK, when in fact many non-Russell Group universities rank higher in various league tables than their Russell Group counterparts. There are very good courses offered by a large number of universities, including some great subjects that aren't offered at Russell Group institutions. It's much more important to be at a university that has a good reputation for your course rather than as a whole.

If we start measuring school performance based on university destinations the danger is that the needs of the individual student will be lost somewhere along the line. Young people should be encouraged to fulfil their dreams and ambitions. It isn't a one-size-fits-all system.

Pearson College London concentrates on a more practice-based education, degrees designed with employers with the explicit aim of preparing students for a job. The objective of education must be for students to enter the right education institution, the choice should be driven by passion - it’s only then that they will become successful and fulfilled in life.

Major employers are finally starting to think seriously about diversity, looking for talent beyond a small subset of elite institutions and while university level study is never only about employability, it is an outcome that students themselves prize most highly.

Times Higher Education, in its most recent Student Experience Survey, highlighted that students’ opinion of what constitutes an excellent education comes in many forms. We can’t rely on simply delivering academic content any more. It’s all about contextualisation, ways of thinking, and the student experience. The relationship between industry and the higher education sector is changing and deepening. Industry plays multiple roles: as customer and partner of higher education institutions and, increasingly, as a competitor.

Institutions such as Pearson College London lead the way in this new relationship. As a smaller institution, each of our students has unprecedented access to a range of industry partners at our disposal as part of a FTSE 100 company. The scale and depth of our students’ industry-based learning and internships will become increasingly critical for them as a source of competitive advantage in the workplace, particularly given the growing emphasis placed on apprenticeship schemes which focus on teaching practical skills, often in conjunction with employers.

Collaboration and exchanging knowledge and skills with business is a core part of the missions of Pearson College London. In 2014 we announced a partnership between Pearson College and the BBC to deliver a Leadership and Management Higher Apprenticeship incorporating our Business Management BA (hons) degree, which the BBC believes can be a key talent attraction and development vehicle for them as an organisation. During the two year scheme the apprentices will be employed by the BBC and given one day a week leave to study with Pearson College London, allowing them to earn while they are learning, and also build their CV with work experience as they take on placements at three different divisions of the BBC.

The working world is definitely changing; it’s more competitive, more complex and more demanding, and the world of academia must encourage better relationships with employers to create a smooth transition between the two.

Interested in studying Business from within a FTSE 100 Company? Check out the Pearson Business School section of our website.