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Region falling behind rest of UK when it comes to degrees

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 July 2010

Figures show people in East Anglia are lagging behind when it comes to having a degree

Figures show people in East Anglia are lagging behind when it comes to having a degree

New figures showed last night that young people in East Anglia are trailing in the wake of the rest of the country when it comes to getting a degree.

Hotspots Yarmouth and South-West Norfolk are in the bottom 10 of 628 parliamentary constituencies across the country, with fewer than one in eight educated to degree level.

New figures showed last night that young people in East Anglia are trailing in the wake of the rest of the country when it comes to getting a degree.

Hotspots Yarmouth and South-West Norfolk are in the bottom 10 of 628 parliamentary constituencies across the country, with fewer than one in eight educated to degree level.

Yarmouth is also near the bottom of the pile for the percentage of adults with no qualifications at all, with one in five.

The rest of the region fails to shine, with Norwich South the best for degrees at almost three in ten.

But the top place in England, Richmond Park in south-west London, is more than twice as good at 64pc and Norwich South is only 231st in the national table.

Suffolk Coastal and Mid Norfolk lead the way locally for the percentage without any qualifications. The figure of one adult in 11 puts them 185th and 189th nationally.

The figures, released by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), show how far Norfolk in particular lags behind its rivals in the race to improve skills.

It also shows the uphill battle for educators and officials in trying to break the curse of low ambition, which blights Norfolk as it is passed down the generations.

The statistics come a few days after the EDP revealed that Norfolk's A-level results had fallen back this year, while GCSE results improved more slowly than many other counties, pushing the county below the national average.

Experts said education quality was not necessarily to blame for the dearth of degrees, and agreed that there was a need to provide more degree-level jobs for local graduates to fill.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: “Norfolk has traditionally been a low-wage economy and that's meant low qualifications. But increasingly, the jobs of the future will require higher levels of qualifications and with it higher wages.

“The work we and our partners are doing is to improve aspirations so more young people value a degree education - and at the same time creating graduate level jobs for the pool of graduates we are aiming to create.”

It is understood that the low levels of degree-educated people living in some parts of the region were skewed by the numbers forced to move to other areas to find the right jobs.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said: “It does not give a true picture of the position in the town. Over my time as MP, I have employed four local people with university degrees and each one of those now works outside the constituency.

“Because we lost so much of our manufacturing during the 1980s and 1990s people with degrees have to look further to find a job. This report wrongly implies education is a postcode lottery and if you live in certain places you have not got a chance.

“In fact youngsters in our area have just as good a chance of getting to university as anywhere else.”

South-West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser said: “I am not convinced that the statistics indicate that if you are born here you have less chance of gaining a degree: rather, the figures suggest that the area may be suffering from a lack of jobs suitable for graduates, and those with a degree are therefore dissuaded from living here.

“At the same time, there is evidence to suggest that an area with historically low educational attainment can get caught in a cycle of social deprivation, poor social mobility and low aspiration.”

He said the government had down young people by placing a cap on university places, leaving tens of thousands unable to access higher education this year.

Lots of work is going on across Norfolk and the region to boost ambition and get more youngsters to go to university.

A spokesman for the University of East Anglia (UEA), said: “We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries, but believe it is absolutely vital to reach out in other ways to communities that have not traditionally thought a university education was for them.

“This is the remit of the university's outreach team. The team runs a range of aspiration-raising activities both on and off campus.”

He added: “Our activities support our primary and secondary schools and include campus taster visits, summer schools, mentoring and visits into school. We have over 180 university students who act as ambassadors for the university and provide positive role models for the young people we engage with.”

The UCU said the figures showed England was a country of “stark contrasts”, with where you live being a key factor in whether you would gain qualifications.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the divide between the best and the worst was growing, which is borne out by the fact that Yarmouth's figure of degree-level adults has fallen from 12.41pc in 2005 to 11.69pc in 2008. South-West Norfolk has fallen from 14.10pc to 12.20pc.

Ms Hunt said that while the government had pursued the cause of social mobility and widening university numbers, the survey showed “the problem is even more deep-seated than previously thought”.

t To see all of the figures, visit www.ucu.org.uk.

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