RAPID RESPONSES

University blues
While Jamie Whyte celebrates a 12 per cent decline in university applications [Hooray for a decline in university applications, yesterday], the CBI says that 56 per cent more jobs in the UK will require degree-level skills by 2017.

Whyte may belong to the group of people who think we have too many graduates, despite what the CBI says. However, UK universities generate £59bn for the UK economy, putting the higher education sector ahead of the agricultural, advertising, pharmaceutical and postal industries.

We are second only to America in the global rankings and, with just 1 per cent of the global population, the UK produces 7.9 per cent of the world's research publications and 12 per cent of all citations.

A key point Whyte has either not understood, or chooses to ignore, is who is likely to be put off by bigger fees and larger debts. The people most likely to miss out are the ones unable to afford, or justify, paying £9,000 a year.

We need our best and brightest brains studying the courses that will ensure they contribute the most to our society and economy. The depressing slump in university applications risks taking us back to a time when it was cost, not ability, that determined an individual’s future and should not be celebrated.

Sally Hunt, general secretary,
University and College Union