This coun­try needs fewer grad­u­ates

Ed Con­way

The Week - - News -

The Times Bri­tain needs to ditch its ob­ses­sion with univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, says Ed Con­way. For years, we’ve been try­ing to push up grad­u­ate num­bers in the hope of im­prov­ing the coun­try’s skill lev­els, and there­fore pro­duc­tiv­ity. But this “quan­tity over qual­ity” ap­proach has had the op­po­site ef­fect. We now have a bloated, but not es­pe­cially well-ed­u­cated, grad­u­ate class that finds it ever harder to se­cure suit­able jobs. Ac­cord­ing to em­ploy­ers, al­most 40% of new work­ers stud­ied the wrong sub­ject for their even­tual job – the “high­est such level in the devel­oped world”. A “star­tling” 15% of work­ers to­day are “overqual­i­fied” for their job. The Gov­ern­ment wants to re­dress the im­bal­ance by en­cour­ag­ing ap­pren­tice­ships and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Yet, un­like in Ger­many, these op­tions are still seen as “a sec­ond-class choice”. Even as the worth of de­grees has de­clined, they’ve re­tained an un­war­ranted snob value: busi­nesses still pay grad­u­ates about 30% more than the av­er­age A-level stu­dent. Break­ing this link is the key to im­prov­ing Bri­tain’s pro­duc­tiv­ity – and its lev­els of so­cial mo­bil­ity.

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