Further drop in youth work courses, figures indicate

By Tristan Donovan

| 14 June 2018

The number of youth work courses on offer from higher education institutions in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, figures published by the National Youth Agency (NYA) suggest.

In 2007/08 there were more than 60 validated youth work courses on offer across the UK. Picture: Arlen Connelly

The latest NYA-collated database indicates that there are now 39 validated higher education youth work courses on offer across 28 universities and colleges in the UK as of June 2018.

That is a drop of five courses since November 2017, when the National Youth Agency (NYA) reported that there were 44 validated courses across 28 higher education institutions.

The NYA has stressed that the figures for June 2018 are provisional, and could be subject to change, but the findings tally with a trend of declining choice for those wishing to study youth work.

In 2007/08 there were more than 60 courses on offer from more than 40 institutions. Since then the number of degree, graduate certificate, masters and postgraduate diploma in youth work programmes has been falling.

"Unfortunately these new figures from NYA are not surprising," said a spokeswoman for UK Youth.

"Our State of the Membership 2018 report found that the workforces of youth organisations within our network are predominately volunteer-led, with two volunteers for every full-time staff member.

"Whilst the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers is widely welcomed, it must be recognised that the youth sector has transitioned from a largely statutory provision to a largely voluntary sector-led service.

"This means the training, processes and oversight that was in place to ensure the safety and protection of young people has diminished.

"Trained youth workers are vital to ensure quality and better support the needs of young people. We have a role to work with NYA and other sector leaders to raise awareness of the crucial and innovative role youth organisations play within the community to increase funding, strengthen quality and attract the youth workers of tomorrow."

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, the chief executive of London Youth, blamed the shrinking number of courses on cutbacks in youth worker jobs.

"It is deeply concerning that youth work is no longer seen as the viable career it once was for many and no coincidence that over the past decade, the number of youth work qualifications offered has dropped by more than a third nationally," she said.

"During that same period, London alone has lost half of the youth workers previously employed by local authorities. The sustained devaluing of youth work professionals, and the challenging but vital work they do, comes at a real cost for our young people.

"The youth sector needs investment and greater confidence about its future so that we can attract, train and retain the dedicated and professional youth workers of the future."

The NYA said it would not comment on the figures until it had finished compiling its annual monitoring report on youth work courses, which is expected to be released next month.

In August last year the NYA reported that the number of students taking youth work courses was at its lowest level on record.

The slump in youth work student numbers has been attributed to cuts in both local authority and voluntary sector youth services. According to Unison, councils in the UK slashed youth service spending by almost £390m between 2010 and 2016.

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