Click here to go to the main StudentGems site

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Top Choice Teaching

Well in one sense some of the government's problems will be getting easier over the next few years. The top Graduate Career choice in 2009 has been teaching, for the first time ever, which should sort out the teacher shortage the UK has been facing. However, I would say that is a small consolation for the rest of this years graduates.

26% of the 16,000 students interviewed by High Fliers have chosen to undertake further study in order to improve their employability and delay entering the depressed UK job market. But what about those who cannot afford the extortionate tuition fees and find money to live?

Students with definite job offers, following the application process October to February, have dropped by 1/3 compared to last year, despite the number of applications having risen considerably. Furthermore, 36% of students due to graduate this year do not expect to find a graduate job and 48% expect to be made redundant within their first year of work. What ever the actual state of the market, students are not optimistic. In addition, for the first time in 14 years the expected starting salary for a graduate has fallen.

So just to clarify, the liklihood of finding the ideal job is lower than last year, if a graduate job is found the salary will be lower than last year and the average student debt is approximately £5,000 higher than last year.

For more information go to the High Fliers Website.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

'The Aldi Affect'

According to a very interesting article on Smarta Aldi seems to have got it right when it comes to an economic down turn. It is a simple case of cutting unnecessary costs without compromising on quality. At Aldi they bulk buy their products and only sell one brand of each product. This reduces their costs, but not their range or quality of products. Whilst small businesses obviously will not necessarily be able to bulk buy to the same extent it may be worth considering reducing variety but offering one or two very good quality products or services.

SMEs should also look for other ways to cut their costs without damaging the quality of their service. Shop around for energy suppliers, marketing agencies and temp agencies. Make sure that you have the best possible deal for all of these and see how much you could save. There are also the little things which all add up. Turn off all plug points (that do not have to be left on) at the end of every day. A power surge extension lead uses electricity just to keep on its warning light, it all adds up.

I recently bought an Original Source shower gel which instead of being in a bottle, was in flimsy plastic packaging. All over the packaging it said they had used 75% less plastic by making this change. The bottle/packaging only goes in the bin when you are finished anyway and I knew that the shower gel was still the same good quality, so I bought it. This change attracted customers in two ways; using less plastic is better for the environment which is what Original Source emphasised and it cut their costs which is why I bought it; on special offer. Recent studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy a ‘green’ product than a non-environmentally friendly one. So communicate to customers how you are helping the environment and why it makes your product better than competitors. Fancy packaging may attract new customers, if the price is right but unless the product is of good quality they will not become regular customers.

Obviously the purpose of all this cost cutting is to reduce your prices, not just increase your profit margin. Communicate with consumers, put a note on your packaging or in your advert saying that you cut costs to reduce prices and the product is still as good as ever.
This will reassure them and should make them appreciate your efforts, increasing brand loyalty in the long term.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Cut Costs, Not Quality

Many Small Businesses are turning the recession to their advantage. According to Direct Line for Business more than 25% of their businesses are confident their business will expand throughout 2009. The hard-working attitude and refusal to give in to circumstances is driving small business owners to come up with new, innovative ideas to stay afloat. These include; picking up business from failed competitors, diversifying in terms of products and services offered and identifying new cost-saving schemes.

An Estate Agent in Hertfordshire has felt the pinch, but outlasted 5 competitors so far. One way of saving money which they found was;

'We have surrendered the lease on our old offices and we have managed to negotiate a new lease in a more central office in Bishop's Stortford, which is rent-free for the first 18 months. In return for the rent-free period we only have to redecorate the office and maintain it.'

This should save them around £1,200 a month. An excellent way to reduce costs and hopefully the new office location will attract new customers.

Taking the time to look for opportunities such as these can be very worth while as in the long run it can save you a lot of money. Another great way to reduce costs is to employ student freelancers for specific jobs, as opposed to those from agencies who are significantly more expensive and do not necessarily provide a better service. Have a look on to see the types of jobs students can complete for you.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

University finances are heading for a toxic time

You'd expect the Government to be looking at ways to prevent the worst effects of the recession from damaging our world-class institutions. Instead, it is demanding that universities do more to help the Government out of the economic mess it played a significant part in creating. The Higher Education minister, David Lammy, even told universities to "focus your minds on what else your institutions can contribute."

It seems that universities are due to go through a much tougher time than the Government cares to admit, which will result in some unappealing decisions being made.
One of the biggest problems universities have had to deal with is the larger than expected pay deal for staff. Universities were contracted in 2006 to match the salary rises in 2008-2009. These rises, and the reccession have lead to a "ticking time bomb" situation, where universities must choose to put more money in to staff pensions, or cut back further.

Many universities rely on equity for a return as part of their income to find their financial plan, and will find that both dividends and income are down. Not only would this impact on the quality of teaching and research, but it also exposes one of the Govenment's main devices to combat the recession - to bring forward capital projects - as a pipe dream.

It is also to be expected that partnerships with businesses and charities will slow or cease to exist. This could mean less collaborative degree funding, fewer research projects funded by charities and business. and a reduction in the use of facilities for events and conferences - income streams that universities rely on.

One vice-chancellor has said: "He [John Denham] doesn't understand how universities are run or financed." This is worrying, as John Denham is the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The Government must review this quickly and thoroughly to ensure tha all potential effects are accounted for, and put together an effective plan to help universities though this 'toxic period'.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Think Big, Start Small

More and more people in the North East of England have decided to do exactly that. Business Link in the North East helped set up 4,000 new businesses last year, a phenomenal rise. There are believed to be several reasons for this trend which include the decline in traditional forms of employment in heavy industry in the North East which tended to be ‘jobs for life’ and the decline in any other available jobs.

In the North East there is a great deal of optimism for the future of the regional economy. Despite the fact that not all the new businesses will be a success some will grow to become employers. The increase in the variety and number of businesses in the region should also help to attract more established businesses to the region. This will also help drive the economy and create jobs.

If you have an idea which is innovative or does not exist in your region why not give it a go? Now is the best time to try and you can find someone to design your website and logo, do copywriting and build up customer relationships on at a fraction of the cost of market prices.

Small businesses entering the market helps increase competition, driving down prices and improving product quality and can create employment opportunities. In the short term they will help the economy recover which in the long term will benefit everyone. So, if you want to save the economy, set up a small business!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Pupils 'should study Twitter'

"Technological advances were driving a pace of change that would have been "unimaginable" when the national curriculum was created 20 years ago"-Sir Jim Rose, former chief of England's schools watchdog, Ofsted.

It has been claimed that the ICT skill that pupils at secondary schools are taught, are now suitable for primary school pupils. There is a view that pupils should learn how to blog and use internet sites like Twitter and Wikipedia.
Given the importance of online networking, and ICT in businesses, it is understandable that these skills should be taught alongside the basic computer skills.

The Guardian said the draft review requires primary school children to be familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication.
Certain skills are to be taught almost side by side- such as spelling and using a spellchecker, and typing as well as handwriting. I hope that the introduction of spellcheckers at a young age, and online resources, will not discourage a generation from reading and result in an apathetic attitude towards learning.
But I do certainly agree that learning to be highly computer literate from a young age can only enhance the potential of online networking, and the quality of research that these pupils can achieve.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Say one thing, do another...

"This summer, universities across England will axe hundreds of courses, mostly those aimed at people from the local area, and those that retrain people for a new career. Manchester University's courses for the public, which have 1,000 students every term, will close their doors, as will Reading University's public programmes. Other universities will stop teaching courses that largely have a non-traditional intake - older students who may already have a qualification in another subject."

"It is the result of a decision by ministers in 2007 to refuse funding for anyone who already has a qualification of equal status, referred to as ELQ (equivalent and lower qualification) students. It means, for example, that anyone with a first degree (BA) who wants to take a BA in another subject will have to pay full fees - making this a luxury for the very rich only."

Given the recession, the Government were all for re-educating the unemployed, and helping them attain degrees...thus making them more employable. Well it seems that some of the decisions on the funding of these courses, and more importantly to stop running some courses that have a largely 'non-traditional' intake, will actually make it harder for the unemployed to be retrained. It will be more expensive for the potential students, and universities are being deterred from taking on 'non-traditional' students.
I fail to see how the Governments decisions, and the Governments aims are compatible. Hmph.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

BBC: Students at home 'to cut costs'

According to a survey by the UK Youth Parliament 36% of young people said the recession will affect their University choices. Many will opt for Universities which enable them to live at home in order to reduce their living expenses as they believe they will not be able to find part-time jobs.

This could be disastrous for the UK economy in the long term as students choose institutions which may not bring out their potential and courses which cost them less, meaning they are not acquiring the skills needed in the UK which they may have otherwise chosen.

Furthermore, the experience of living away from home is very valuable for students. They learn how to manage finances, pay rent, bills and so on, cook, wash their clothes and clean (at least a little!) for themselves. I have found University to be an excellent way of learning how to live on my own and support myself, but still having my parents to fall back on if I really need their support. It is like a buffer zone between being reliant on your parents and becoming fully self reliant. If more students are choosing not to move away from home they are depriving themselves of this excellent life experience.

These concerns are being further compounded by the fears of rising tuition fees which would further add to student debt, with graduate recruitment prospects not looking good. The survey also found that 95% of young people were opposed to the lifting of the £3000 per year cap.

Choosing whether or not to attend University is a big enough decision on its own, without having all these extra elements for 16 year olds to have to take into consideration!