Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Article excerpt

The country needs you to churn out graduates

Jonathan Simons writes weekly about policy and education

One of the fascinating things about of the rise in undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 is that it hasn't deterred young full-time entrants at all.

In fact, both entry numbers and entry rates to university among 18- and 19-year-olds are at a record high, including for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. David Laws, the former schools minister, writes ruefully in his new book of how the tuition fee vote was by far the biggest mistake made by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition - but only because of previous pledges the party had made, in error, to scrap them.

He concludes, unequivocally, that "the new policy was eventually and by any fair judgement a huge success". But the empirical success of the policy hasn't stopped some on the Left agitating for a complete abolition of fees (A £3,000 tax cut for those earning £60,000 a year, Mr Corbyn? At a total annual cost of £10 billion? Well, if that's really your priority...)

And it hasn't stopped some on the Right still grumbling that "too many children" go to university (their own offspring almost certainly not included).

But the fact is that there is no magic about the higher education participation rate - several of our major economic competitors send more young people on to further study. And some data released last week by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills shows the future demand for graduates. …

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