I am a Registered Nurse. The minimum qualification needed to apply for nurse training when I did so was one O level. I had 5 O levels and 2 A levels when I applied, I was over qualified for the course. Today, one needs to gain a degree in order to become a registered nurse, and one needs a sackful of stared GCSE's and, at least, three A levels to get into a nursing course. Yet first year qualified nurses in these days are much less competent than they were thirty years ago!
When I was in the sixth form (year 13) those who failed to get two A levels could go to Teacher's Training Collages to train as Primary School Teachers. Today you need a degree and a postgraduate certificate in teaching in order to become a primary school teacher.
Listening to Assembly Members (and bloggers) argue about the costs of Higher Education, leaves me in a state of despair, because they don't ask the most basic questions:
Why do we need so many bloody graduates?
Why does a job that needed two O Levels 30 years ago need three degrees now?
If I have been a competent nurse for the past 30 years, without a degree, why does my son need a degree to follow in my footsteps?
Harold Wilson's government raised school leaving age to sixteen years old and lowered the age of majority to 18 years, which left the unqualified school leaver just two years to learn a trade before attaining adulthood. Before Wilson, those who chose the apprenticeship or the graduate route to employment would both qualify at the age of 21, when they became adults.
The answer to the funding of higher education problem is simple! Go back to the situation where two O levels are good enough for a simple clerical job. Allow 14 year olds to become 7 year apprentices for skill orientated jobs; and use the universities to educate just the top percentile of our national intelligentsia, where an university education is absolutely necessary, rather than forcing all and sundry to gain an unneeded university education for the sake of being politically correct!