This is odd of course but stopped clocks and all that*. Polly Toynbee makes a useful and sensible point. The great adventure of expanding university access in the name of social mobility seems to be failing:
Now that a degree leaves students up to £69,000 in debt, with 70% never earning enough to pay it all back, maybe the surprise is that few school leavers have been deterred. A graduate still earns around 35% more than a non-graduate. But averages deceive. While the number from poorer backgrounds hasn’t fallen, dispiriting new research finds that even after gaining a degree from a good university, those from poorer backgrounds, without the connections or the money to take internships, fare worse in jobs.
The Paired Peers project, which followed a cohort of students from Bristol University and the University of the West of England, found that their family’s social class still counted most, whichever university they attended.
Sending 50% of the age cohort off to university in an attempt to shake up the social classes doesn't seem to work. OK, so, experiment failed, let's not do that any more, eh? Back to a more reasonable 10 to 15% of the cohort taking these academic courses, around and about the likely number who will benefit from academia rather than just a course, and that of course makes the problem of funding the system much more manageable.
In fact, Polly makes two sensible points:
The second great shock, which simply defies belief, is the 23% slump in the number applying for nursing places this year, the first year when nursing students pay full fees and lose their bursaries. That is despite spending half their training time providing useful service to the NHS.
We made noises about this when it was first mooted, that nursing should become a graduate profession. Disapproving noises as well. Not just because we're the sort of snobs we are but at least one of us has direct experience of people training under the old and the new systems. That new is not better than the old from direct observation.
Sadly, Polly won't manage to make the third and correct observation from this. Just as there can indeed be market failures so also can there be government ones. The entire joy of a market based system is that when a mistake is made those making it go bust and disappear from the scene. Government mistakes not so much - how difficult does anyone think it's going to be to reverse these two mistakes?
*It is left as an exercise for the reader whether we are or Polly is that ceased timepiece