In 1999, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair set a 2010 target for 50 per cent of young people to go to university. This was finally achieved in the academic year 2017/18 with, according to recent stats released by the Department of Education, 50.2 per cent of English 17 to 30-year-olds participating in Higher Education.
This study followed a record-breaking year for the numbers of English 18-year olds applying to universities despite the 2012 rise of tuition fees.
Challenges have been made to the necessity of Higher Education for all. The Telegraph reported of government ministers accusing universities of running “threadbare” courses to recruit more students and maximise revenue.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that a third of university graduates are overqualified for their jobs and 28 per cent are actually working in those that do not require a degree.
With projections of 70 per cent of students failing to repay loans within the next 30 years, there will be an increasing demand on the tax payer to pay the wind fall.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson accused universities of “virtue signalling,” and failing to recruit disadvantaged students despite £1 billion being spent on schemes to widening access. With fees set to continue increasing, questions are arising about the continued accessibility to higher education for these people.
Universities have also been urged to increase diversity, with fewer men (43.4 per cent of students) in higher education as well as decreasing applications from students in Scotland and Wales. Additionally, Universities UK have written a publication to address attainment gaps and drop-out rates of Black, Asian and Minority students despite these groups making an increased amount of university applications.
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