Does Birmingham have the right qualifications?

The 27th annual climb in A level grades were announced yesterday to great fanfares of cynicism and howls of “dumbing down”. Thousands of Birmingham youngsters share in the bumper year’s results but they are discovering that A levels are a debased currency when it comes to a university place.

Up to 6 students are chasing every place available through the clearing system as the best cohort in history fight for entry to a degree course. By mid morning yesterday the elite universities had already announced they were full.

Birmingham University by Tom Thorpe

Birmingham University by Tom Thorpe

Today’s headlines have got me thinking about whether Birmingham has the qualifications to retain its students after they have graduated from our universities and colleges?

A cynic (who me?) could say Broad Street is now a cultural and literal wasteland. The once über cool Arcadian Centre has lost its shine. Pubs and Clubs are being closed in Digbeth because of noise bleed and poor planning policy. The dire lack of support for independent retail has resulted in a homogenous shopping experience in the city centre.

Can Birmingham ever compete against London in the graduate retention stakes?

The more I think about it the more I like the idea of a Greater Birmingham. I doubt this will ever happen but when I consider how we gain maximum leverage from our local assets I can only see benefit from the region having a shared and thus louder voice with its combined assets and a coherent communications strategy with synergistic objectives. The surrounding towns and boroughs will not lose their identity or charm any more than Chelsea or Wimbledon did during the creation of Greater London in the ‘60s.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Does Birmingham have the right qualifications?

  1. JL

    Great article Anthony.
    In terms of retention, the ongoing problem is quite simple, however hard we push the benefits of the Midlands and specifically Birmingham we can never compete with the bright lights and kudos that London has to offer. As a Creative Director I find that many graduates are deluded into thinking they are going to be ‘fast-tracked’ into becoming a more successful and stronger designer. ‘Wake up grads’, most of the studios in the smoke are run by people like me. ( Not from London). Stick it in the Middle!!!

    JL

  2. Again, great article.
    A few basic plus points Birmingham has against London, in my opinion of course, is that our costs of living are far more affordable than the Big Smoke, if a graduate wants to feel part of a business community, it is probably much easier to achieve that in a shorter amount of time in Birmingham and it’s a far less lonely place than London if you’re planning on stepping into the big wide world fresh from university.
    Birmingham has the potential to create a ‘Greater Birmingham’. The point is just whether enough people get behind it and make it happen.

  3. The problem we have with graduate retention, and I’m talking in the creative sector here, is the lack of suitable space, co-working, retail, gallery etc, that allows students to show, sell, exhibit their work. Until the city really embraces the idea of independendent, affordable, flexible and adventurous spaces then we will continue to struggle to retain graduates. Birmingham is fantastic in educational and training terms for students but very poor in being able to retain and support the creme da la creme. As far as I know other major cities, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol have better retention rates in this area.
    I wholeheartedly support the idea of Greater Birmingham, much as Manchester promotes itself as Greater Manchester. Much better global visibility for all concerned, alas I cannot see this happening for some time!

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