To The Daily Telegraph
How many graduates does our economy really need and how many can it afford? Fifty years ago, only 5% of school-leavers went on to university. Now the figure has soared to almost 50%, the entirely arbitrary target dreamt up by Tony Blair in his early days in office. This target seems to have become an article of political faith, yet I am aware of no economic evidence that the British economy needs such a high proportion.
In Germany, for example, Europe’s most successful economy, it is only 27%. Instead, Germans prioritise better apprenticeships and focused work-training schemes for young people. That’s what British business and industry are calling for, not for yet more graduates – many of whom have surprisingly poor basic numeracy, literacy and critical reasoning skills.
Our obsession with access over quality has led to such a bloated higher education sector that we have the absurd situation of universities competing for students. (Nigel Henson, Farningham, Kent)
I don’t think the large number of graduates is a bad thing in terms of the quality of life over a graduate’s lifetime (assuming they actually learn critical thinking, espouse lifelong learning and discover aptitudes and interests they never knew they had). Jobs are altogether a different matter. It does seem there are too many graduates for the jobs available. So you have the ludicrous situation of spending a small fortune getting a degree only to discover that no one wants you. Meanwhile we are importing skilled workers from Eastern Europe to do jobs the British always used to do perfectly well. Given Brexit and the urge to cut off the spigot of well-trained Poles and others, where do Brexiteers think the country is going to find engineers, architects, plasterers, bricklayers etc. once they have all been sent home?
Duh! Haven’t thought of that!