The secretarial college that taught the Duchess of York to type is being filled by unemployed graduates paying a princely Pounds 2,000 for a three-month course which promises an alternative route into management and the media.
Queen's Business and Secretarial College, founded 70 years ago and based in South Kensington, used to cater for students opting for a "gap" year between school and university. But on some of the short one-term courses, graduates are now outnumbering the so-called "gappies". In one term, 70 per cent of the students were graduates. Currently 53 of the 104 "one-termers" are graduates.
The graduates - everything from marine biologists and history of art specialists to sociologists and lawyers - come from a range of traditional universities, including London, Exeter and Edinburgh as well as such high-flying ex-polytechnics as Oxford Brookes and the University of the West of England, Bristol.
Oxbridge graduates have also been attracted by the prospect of getting a foot in the door of a major company. "We interviewed an Oxford girl the other day," said college principal Marion Feibush, "and she said that while an Oxbridge degree used to get you straight into a job, even they now have to acquire additional skills by taking further qualifications."
The 12-week, full-time course trains the students in the full range of secretarial skills, including typing at 40 words per minute and shorthand at 80 words per minute, and graduates can earn as much as Pounds 20,000 a year working as secretaries.