Youth work student numbers plunge by 28 per cent

By Derren Hayes

| 04 May 2017

The number of students undertaking youth and community work courses at universities fell by more than a quarter last year, new figures show.

The number of people studying for a youth work qualification has fallen by 28 per cent. Picture: Shutterstock

Statistics compiled by the National Youth Agency (NYA) show that in 2015/16, there were 572 youth and community work students on approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses, 27.9 per cent less than the 793 recorded in 2014/15. 

The fall continues a long-term decline in the number studying youth and community work - in 2009/10 there were nearly 1,300 students on approved courses run by higher education institutions (HEIs).

Last month, Manchester Metropolitan University announced that it will no longer accept new entrants for its youth and community work degree, saying a slump in job prospects for youth workers due to the effects of public sector spending cuts was largely behind the decision.

The NYA figures also show that the number of HEIs offering youth work degree courses fell 10 per cent last year, from 31 to 28. Postgraduate courses also fell by a similar proportion to a total of 21.

Paul Fenton, national officer for TAG: The Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work, said the average number of students on courses was 19, but that this masked huge variations - the fewest is eight and most 47.

"Some courses are quite healthy, while others are unsustainable," he said. "I would expect to see fewer courses in the next few years."

A recent snapshot survey by TAG of 35 HEIs in England offering approved youth and community work courses found that 10 of them had either closed to new entrants or were at risk of being closed.

Latest data from local authority section 251 returns shows council spending on youth services fell from £815m in 2012/13 to £500m in 2015/16.

An NYA spokeswoman said the data for 2015/16 is incomplete and has not been officially validated.

"NYA's annual monitoring survey canvasses a return from each validated youth work programme and provides a definitive overview of professional youth work qualifications," the spokeswoman said.

"We make the data available each year in July once it has been reviewed and approved by the education and training standards committee.

"The 2015/16 data has not yet been assembled and will be available in July 2017. Until then any figures relating to professional youth work qualifications should be treated as incomplete."

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