This March, UCAS held further education fairs across the country to showcase potential avenues for the next generation of students.

Manchester Central hosted around 150 stalls for two days, filled with not only universities, but also businesses such as household names like Dyson, who were offering degree apprenticeships, and even MI5! Top 10 universities and those in the prestigious Russel Group, such as Durham University and UCL, had stalls, supported by speakers talking about the application process, to give all students the best chance for the future. The crowds flowed in and out, given a three-hour block to explore, and with a delicious grilled sandwich shop at the entrance to re-fuel.

Recently, there has been a push to de-stigmatise the degree apprenticeship programs, previously being labelled ‘a worse alternative’ where this is simply not the case. Degree Apprenticeships offer the participants wages and a split of practical work alongside formal classroom work, which negates student loans and being a full-time student, which appeals to many. This avenue often leads to a secured job at the end which, in light of recent cost-of-living crises, is especially highly valued. Degree apprenticeships are available in careers such as construction, engineering, accountancy and much more- the increase in stalls for this avenue positively reflects these changing times.

The event was also a reflection of the next generation's digitisation, where each stall provided an opportunity to scan the entrance QR code again. This automatically signed them up for the stall’s mailing list, resulting in an effective turnover rate. Additionally, the attendees had a chance to experience a VR tour of one of the campuses which was quite disorienting, considering the busy occasion, but no less enjoyable. A range of public transport options to get to the event and free metal straws at some stands echoed a move towards climate-conscious decisions, and creative free branded tote bags added a light-hearted tone to what is otherwise a momentous milestone in the students’ academic lives. 

The UCAS deadline for application is now on the horizon for the attendees. Anna Johns, a student who was at the event, commented, ‘My first application deadline is the 13th of September!’ so we wish all students luck in the upcoming deliberation process.