Letter: Some paradoxes of participation 2

December 14, 2001

With a large part of higher education still reeling from the fees bomb dropped by the Institute for Public Policy Research ("£2,000 fees on Blair's agenda", THES , December 7), we can only wonder how a group that consistently presents the thoroughly batty can really influence the government.

Two points could help the government join up thinking. First, entry charges to museums pushed people away. That is why the government has now removed them.

Second, the income value of a first degree will fall rapidly as half of 18 to 30-year-olds participate in higher education. This will happen whether or not universities reduce the standard of those degrees to allow for those who were not adequately prepared for such studies before entering.

The result will be increased demand for postgraduate qualifications because the degree will be seen as the entry-level (that is non-management) qualification for most professions. Education and medicine have already hit this plateau.

This inflationary effect will produce an economic freeze because managers will not be able to find people they regard as qualified. Equally, those caught by the original introduction of tuition fees will be unable to pay the soaring costs of the new managerial routes.

We need a higher education review that includes an analysis of needs and of future investment sources. Britain can't bank the future on the ability or willingness of some parents to pay higher tuition fees. The government should become an "investor in people".

Andrew Morgan
Swansea

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