A vast cohort of bright young things have secured their university places with A-level success this week. But things are not so rosy at the universities they will set off to join: after 25 years of rapid expansion, the sector is drifting away from both the core principles of education and the world of work. A few figures illustrate the problem: 2.3 million students are in higher education; 47 per cent of young people are in university; 51 per cent of A--level students will begin undergraduate study aged 18. And almost three quarters of them will get a 2:1 or a first. What exact distinction does a university degree confer?
True, the vast majority of students enter paid work or further research within six months of graduating.