Why I ... believe we churn out far too many graduates

September 3, 1999

It is a bit of a drag teaching students who only come to university to "come of age" because I find that they are not really committed to their work. This country suffers terribly from diploma disease - everyone assumes that you need a degree to get ahead.

But as a recent survey by the Institute of Employment Studies at Sussex University has shown, two-thirds of graduates are in jobs that could be filled by school leavers. One-tenth of graduates hold down secretarial positions. We do not need any more graduates.

Liberals argue that people enjoy other advantages at university, such as the experience of going away from home for the first time. They assert that going to university should not just be about getting a job at the end of a degree programme.

But there are many other ways of leaving home and learning independence that do not place such heavy burdens on the taxpayer - travelling around the world, for instance, or voluntary work.

That is why I believe government subsidies should be withdrawn from higher education. The nationwide expansion of higher education has resulted in its dumbing down. Few would want to study on a so-called Mickey Mouse course they were only half interested in if they had to pay Pounds 30,000 for it.

Other countries operate highly successful commercial student loan schemes that mean that all those who want to study have to pay a market price. By making students accountable for the cost of their degree, they will be more inclined to learn for the sake of learning and not simply to enhance their status.

Education may be as fundamental a right as the right to food, but does the state subsidise our food intake? The government needs to treat education in the same way that it treats food. It should be down to a matter of individual integrity and responsibility.

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