Young people are going to bad universities to study subjects no employers want. This tragedy is our fault

Martin Stephen
The Telegraph [UK]
30 July 2012

Surprised to hear that more than 20,000 graduates from the year of 2011 were still unemployed six months after they graduated? We shouldn’t be. This is a full-scale tragedy written, orchestrated and adapted for real life by the Government, and the victims are our young people.

We need to see the figures that show employment numbers broken down to show the difference between the “new” universities, and Oxbridge or older, more established universities. We need the figures broken down also by degree subject. If they are, we start to see the true story: aspirational young people encouraged to go to universities that lack credibility to study subjects employers don’t want. Result? Massive debt, wasted years and slapping hamburgers in an outlet where the manager joined McDonald’s straight from school.

It’s our fault we’ve let our young people down. We have no definition of what a university is – is it academic, vocational, for research or for use as a finishing school? Is it what we understand by a university, or simply a glorified college? We have no real means of matching the numbers taking degrees to the needs of either the country or the employment market. We can’t fund the universities we have, and the contact time on some arts courses is derisory.

The funding crisis created by maniac expansion threatens our world-class universities with demotion, as well as the creation of a disaffected generation who feel they were sold a pup. Is there anyone in there brave enough in there to admit that we can’t afford to send 50 per cent of our young people to university, they can’t afford it and we really need to bring back the distinction between College and University? Or are we happier to have thousands of new unemployed who as well as no jobs have no prospect of paying back the £30,000 debt they acquired to prove there were no jobs for them?

Dr Martin Stephen was High Master of St Paul’s from 2004 to 2011. He was previously High Master of Manchester Grammar School and headmaster of The Perse School. He has written several academic works and is the author of the Henry Gresham historical crime thriller series.

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