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Social Mobility: Higher Education Not the Answer

I have suggested for sometime that the primary goal of getting as many young people as possible into higher education would not solve problems of social mobility. There has been against a back drop of relentless policy across all political parties to drive young people into higher education. The high numbers of university attendees has led to the introduction of tuition fees, asset stripped resources from non-academic vocational qualifications and lowered their social value. Furthermore, as having a degree has become a norm not an exception, degrees themselves have become devalued.

Whilst 50 per cent of people now attain degrees, the UK market place only requires 13 per cent of jobs to require a degree. So even those who attain degrees will find themselves competing in a fierce, over supplied job market. Competition for students has meant Universities have dropped entry requirements, and the common offers of unconditional places is lower A Level results too. I read recently that one in six theme park attendants has a degree.

Despite the over whelming evidence that the drive towards the over provision of degrees in higher education is not a healthy social policy, no political party is willing to reconsider this policy direction. Furthermore, when discussing this subject, very few people are willing to accept the possibility that the higher education simply does not have a enduring impact on students social mobility.

I am not arguing that the range of courses should be narrowed, or that courses deemed 'frivolous' by some should be axed. The problem is not the range of courses open, but the sheer number of places across the spectrum.

So I was very interested in this very thoughtful piece published in the Conversation that re-examined the impact of degrees on social mobility with some very interesting results. To read the article click here.

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