Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Welcome to 'Loonyversity'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Welcome to 'Loonyversity'

Article excerpt

Encouraging more and more school-leavers to do degrees not only discredits the value of university but also funnels people into a costly career quagmire

Last term, our engineering department was offered three apprenticeships at a prestigious company. We gathered all the level 2 students to tell them about this great opportunity. They would be earning more than £9,000 a year, with prospects of up to £60,000 when fully trained.

"No," they said - all of them. "We want to go to university."

These 31 budding engineers are all perfectly good students. But many have limited maths and English, and will have to work very hard to get into university in a year or two. They will then have to complete a three-year degree programme, running up an average debt of £44,000 in the process.

The apprenticeship route offers far better prospects of good earnings without any debt and a faster, surer route into secure, high-quality employment. They could even do a part-time degree later on, or a degree apprenticeship. But no. They, their teachers and their parents are totally convinced that a university degree is the only route to success. Welcome to the world of the "loonyversity".

It's a world created by successive governments that have trumpeted the value of a university education even as student fees have risen steeply. It's a world created by universities, naturally keen to see their student numbers and incomes swell. And it's a world created by a system in which secondaries' reputation is increasingly linked to the numbers they get into university. …

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