Vince Cable slams ‘qualification inflation’ in ‘standard’ professions

Vince Cable has criticised the “qualification inflation” that means entrants to “very standard” professions such as nursing require a degree.

November 13, 2013

The business secretary also told a Sutton Trust event today that the government is in talks with banks to devise a loans system for postgraduates.

Meanwhile, Mr Cable entered the discussion of social mobility started by Sir John Major, the former Conservative prime minister.

“I’m one of the few people in the Cabinet who didn’t go to a top school and isn’t a millionaire,” he said.

On postgraduate funding, he noted that there is no equivalent of the undergraduate funding system that provides support for loans and maintenance costs – meaning the majority of postgraduates “self finance”.

“We do recognise that this is a significant barrier to social mobility,” said Mr Cable. “We recognise it – there’s not a great deal we can do about it given the limited funding we have.”

He added: “David Willetts [the universities and science minister] is meeting the banks to try to devise a loans scheme that will help people progress through postgraduate education.”

Mr Cable also discussed the fact that an increasing number of professions are considering requiring entrants to hold a degree.

“The idea that in order to be a police officer or a nurse you need to have a degree – that’s just qualification inflation,” he said.

“You could argue there’s some ultimately good things associated with it, but arguably not…That partly explains why 40 per cent of people go to university rather than the 10 per cent which…I experienced.

“There are a whole lot of very standard professions, not elite professions, where a degree is a basic qualification. We are conscious in some areas like accountancy and elsewhere that degree qualifications appear to be superfluous – we’re trying to persuade professional associations to address that.”

Mr Cable also said: “We still have a major problem of social mobility in the UK, much of it centred on higher education.”

But he continued that while the problem was particularly evident in the most selective universities, it was “nothing to do with crude discrimination”.

Mr Cable also called for greater clarity in the use of the term “social mobility”, suggesting it is currently used in a “rather sloppy way”.

The business secretary said the most important day in his father’s life was when the family moved from a terraced house to a semi-detached house. That kind of social mobility “matters to millions and millions of people” and was more important than figures on how many Old Etonians are in the Cabinet, argued Mr Cable.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Reader's comments (1)

Perhaps excepting medieval graduates emanating from our sparingly few ancient universities, many so-called 'elite' professions date back only to the Victorian period having started from quite humble vocational origins catered for in expanding school/college/university sectors of that time. The new 'standard' professions will likely similarly continue help raise standards (and presumably also social mobility) through accredited degrees, their own examinations and maybe Higher Apprenticeship options, augmented with associated applied university led research to meet student and commercial demand.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study