Tories want to replace ‘rip-off degrees’ with 100,000 new apprentices a year

The Conservatives will promise to replace “rip-off degrees” with 100,000 apprenticeships each year by the end of the next parliament if they win the general election.

The Tories will outline their plans on Wednesday to replace the “worst performing” courses with high-skilled apprenticeships, which they say will provide “more opportunities and greater financial security”.

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Making the announcement, Rishi Sunak will say: “Improving education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for boosting life chances. So, it’s not fair that some university courses are ripping young people off.

“Thanks to our plan, apprenticeships are much higher quality than they were under Labour. And now we will create 100,000 more, by putting an end to rip-off degrees and offering our young people the employment opportunities and financial security they need to thrive.

“That’s the choice at this election – the Conservatives with our clear plan to grow the economy and give people the opportunities they need for a secure future, or Labour who have no plan and would take us back to square one.”

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A new law will grant powers to the Office for Students to identify the courses with the highest dropout rates, the least progression to graduate jobs and the lowest earnings potential, and then close them.

The party will then continue its existing measures to “boost uptake” of apprenticeships – including funding the cost of training some young apprentices at small and medium-sized businesses – as well as working with the creative sector to find new routes for people to train.

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But while the Conservatives boasted about delivering 5.8 million apprenticeships since taking office in 2010, Labour claimed the party had halved the number offered since 2015.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “It is laughable that the Tories, who have presided over a halving of apprenticeships for young people, are now announcing this.

“Why on earth should parents and young people believe they’ll create training opportunities now, after 14 years of failing to deliver opportunities for young people and the skills needed to grow our economy?”

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The Liberal Democrats also condemned the Conservatives’ policy announcement, with their education spokesperson Munira Wilson saying the party had “broken the apprenticeship system”.

“The shockingly low pay for those on apprenticeships will remain, doing nothing to encourage more people to take apprenticeships up or tackle soaring dropout rates,” she added.

“This treatment of apprentices as second-class workers will only continue under the Conservatives.”

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