What can you get for £25,000 these days? Well, if you're off to university this September, that amount should more or less cover your term-time fees and expenses for the three years if you're careful.
If the end result is a degree in a recognized subject from a well-known university then it's probably worth the money, but a glance through what's on offer for candidates in clearing shows plenty of the sort of thing that might raise the eyebrows of a prospective employer.
Tony Blair's intention of getting vast numbers into university may have been an attempt to match the increasingly well-qualified workforces of the tiger economies but the sad reality is something rather different.
Without the school system to back it up, the result has been a vast increase in degrees of doubtful academic merit attracting candidates struggling with the demands of A-level. According to a report published in February of this year,
Some four-in-10 newly-admitted students had grades no better than two Es at A-level... [and] ...an increasing number of applicants were being given places despite lacking “the intellectual attributes needed for higher education”.
These will be the students most likely to drop out before the end of the course - England's record in that department already being a decidedly unenviable one - and be left with massive debts and nothing to show for it. Even if payment is deferred until they are earning a reasonable amount, the debt remains as a financial and psychological burden.
'50% to university' belongs in the same category as 'all must have prizes' - it produces a system that ultimately breaks down under the strain, harming the very people it was meant to benefit.
Lee, Fats, George and Ira
7 hours ago