With an ever increasing number of our young people attending University, does this dilute the earning power of a degree education and resulting in graduates having to accept employment in roles for which they are over-educated ?
How can students differentiate themselves from their peers who are also educated to degree level and their peers who are not? Surely we should not kerb enthusiasm to learn and a desire to improve if this is affordable?
The skills learnt through University include life-skills, team- working, negotiation skills, presentation skills, which extend well beyond pure academic learning.
Should there be an assumption that degree level study will lead to instant graduate employment? There is no guarantee of such right of passage and students should prepare themselves for continued hard work and commitment beyond University to offer unique skills that the employment market needs.
Experience within the workplace can provide this unique edge and whilst initial employment may not be strictly "graduate", surely the best graduates, finding themselves in this position will explore the opportunities of such a position and seek to apply their learning to deliver better outcomes for their employer and for themselves - creating their own graduate niche.
Education is a privilege and for those that wish to pursue higher levels of education they may need to pay more. Acting as a filter to those students who may choose university as an option, because they are either, undecided what else they may do or see this is a guaranteed route to higher income. Degree level education may not be the best choice to fulfil either of these options.
However, a better educated society offers so many benefits beyond job title and earnings: improved parenting skills; an awareness and engagement with community; willingness to be a contributor to society - using social skills to develop local opportunities for all; better health through understanding , to name but a few.
The overall cultural benefit of higher education out-weighs the dis-benefit of over-education. We can support our young people to ensure their employment expectations are realistic and that they enter higher education for the best reasons, then there is all to gain.
The higher education sector in the United Kingdom has experienced virtually continuous growth in student numbers over the past 35 years. Between 1989 and 1995 alone there was a massive 61 per cent increase in university enrolments. This seems an opportune time to ask whether the UK needs more graduates, as many people, including the Confederation of British Industry, argue. Do most graduates get graduate level jobs? What is a graduate job? Can we measure the extent of any "over-education" problem? What has been the effect of expansion on both the private and the social rate of return to a degree? Specifically, do we have a situation of excess supply of graduates, caused in part by subsidising higher education to the extent that we do?