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Students Should Avoid 'Swindle' That They're Better Off With a University Education

19/08/2014 13:59 BST | Updated 18/10/2014 10:59 BST

Last week we saw the overall pass rate for A levels fall for the first time in 32 years, students who achieved lower grades are being told they have an opportunity to go to university after 30,000 new places were created.

In my view young people are not always better off with a university education.

All of these extra places come with a price tag and they'll go to young people who don't have a reason to go to university other than somebody told them it would be a good idea.

Add the fact they probably don't have a career path in mind and we're left with a higher education system full of Mickey Mouse courses fuelling the country's ever-growing skills gap.

Now I'm all for encouraging kids to follow their dreams, but they have to be tempered with a dose of realism every now and again.

If the last couple of decades have taught us anything it's that a lack of investment in practical has left the country with a severe shortage of skills in a lot of places that can actually drive the economy forward.

One of the key ways to bridge the skills gap is for the education system and the world of business to work together in harmony making sure that we educate and train people for the industries where they are needed.

This is happening in further education, where colleges and training providers have latched on to this challenge and are delivering vocational courses and apprenticeships either in partnership or for the benefit of employers.

On the other hand, Higher Education is still operating in a bubble where self-preservation exists over what's needed for the good of the country.

The university sector has its good points but people need to be under no illusion that it is an industry. And as an industry it cannot survive without paying customers. The ironic thing here is that companies who train apprentices are also undeniably money making operations, but universities somehow still manage to hold the moral high ground of the 'educator'.

For those who know what they are there for there will always be enough places. There are some careers where a university education is essential and those who follow this path accept that £50,000 worth of debt is a necessary evil to get the career they want.

But for the others being targeted by universities, and society for that matter, they are caught up in a swindle by reinforcing the myth that whatever else happens you are always better off with a university education.

This is, of course, rubbish, and I've met plenty of people lured by this trap who wish they'd never gone to university. This, however, is not something I've heard from qualified tradespeople when they talk about their apprenticeship!

These are people who have gained specific skills, have guaranteed a job for life, can ply their trade anywhere they choose and don't have any training-related debt. Which model best serves society? It's a no brainer.