Universities are a mess. But don’t expect Labour to clean them up
BY CHARLOTTE GILL
Last week, Ucas released some fairly shocking statistics. But these went largely unacknowledged by the media.
The admissions service announced that 49 percent of 18-year-olds were given a university place in 2019 despite having grades lower than the advertised requirements.
Ucas also said that a record 541,000 students were accepted onto undergraduate courses this year, with degrees offered through clearing continuing to rise (the highest on record, too).
To progressives, these numbers are a cause for celebration. The uptick is partly explained by more disadvantaged kids going to university (who have had grades “contextualised” to promote their entry). Increases in the numbers of undergraduates, too, are always thought of as a good thing given that universities are still considered the great engine of social mobility.
But dig deeper and it’s actually a worrying state of affairs, which could lead many teenagers worse off than they were before through saddling them with unnecessary debt. It highlights society’s flawed and continual overemphasis on universities, which have disintegrated in almost every way imaginable over the last few decades – having had teaching hours reduced, for one, and grades artificially inflated earlier this year.
The decline of universities has been a long and painful process, but was arguably accelerated when Tony Blair became Prime Minister and randomly decided 50 percent of young people should go.
This was a dire political decision that has led to a surplus of overqualified youngsters in the employment market – all the while universities dumbed down their approach.
The growing redundancy of these institutions was obvious to me as soon as I started university in 2007, finding the syllabus incredibly thin for the cost, but matters became even worse when I graduated in 2010.
In the aftermath of the financial recession, much of my generation discovered courses didn’t lead to a job. When recessions hit, what instead becomes most important is entrepreneurial nous or skills in booming industries such as tech.
The situation has not changed hugely since then with one in three graduates now overqualified for a job. This is why it’s remarkable that Corbyn’s iteration of the Labour Party is pushing so many youngsters to go, with the economically catastrophic promise of free tuition.
Corbyn’s own insistence on universities is especially strange considering that he does not have a degree and has succeeded. This is actually a better example to give young people, considering the ways in which the world is changing and the type of qualifications that are useful for workers to have.
Part of the reason I suspect Corbyn is concentrating on universities is because these are overwhelmingly left-wing, with one report suggesting that eight in ten lecturers are of that persuasion. It not only means that Labour can benefit from the university voter base but keep young people locked in a system that indoctrinates them with socialist politics.
If the party were less cynical they would simply tell young people that there are too many graduates – and that there are no winners when they go in droves. Certainly not the economy.
We need a much more intelligent education model that matches degrees to the demands of our employment market.
We need fewer students going to universities – not least because this might give us a chance to subsidise the brightest.
Unfortunately, education is something Labour are happy to bury their head in the sand over.
They view it as a fast-track to power, not something in need of serious reformation.
It’s a shame because what’s today’s freebie is storing up for a huge amount of trouble later down the line.
Charlotte Gill is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in The Mail on Sunday, The Times and The Telegraph. Follow her on twitter: @CharlotteCGill