I\’ll admit that I rather struggle to understand this.
Labour will keep its target of sending half of all school-leavers to university despite figures showing that participation in higher education is falling, ministers have insisted.
No, not the failure to hit the target, but the target itself. Other than having been plucked from the air, what is so magical about 50% of the age group going to university?
All I can see that has happened is a degrading of the graduate premium (arts majors fo men now seem to have a negative return for example) and an expansion of Mickey Mouse degree courses. Plus, of course, a vast expansion of credentialism. Does a nurse, for example, really need a university degree? Do, as argued only last week, nursery staff need one? Do teachers need a post-graduate one?
I can see huge value in people doing degrees: either as a rite of passage or for the sheer joy of learning, but outside a rather small section of jobs (I\’m thinking about certain sciences and engineering disciplines) the economic value of a degree (which is what I think the justification used for that target is) seems to me to be very weak.
So where did that target come from and what is used to justify it?
"The Knowledge Economy" doesn\’t cut it I\’m afraid. That requires that all doing such degrees are in fact aquiting knowledge of economic value, which I don\’t see as being true.