The government says too many students are either dropping out of university or not going on to good jobs after they graduate.
They want to put a limit on the number of students on courses that are “failing to deliver good outcomes” for those enrolled on them.
Asked by presenter Reid which degrees would have their places capped, he replied: “We’re going to cap those courses that have poor quality outcomes.”
Reid then asked: “What’s the definition of a poor quality outcome?”
Halfon replied: “A poor quality outcome is a student who doesn’t progress to a good job 15 months after graduating, a student who doesn’t necessarily continue the course, if there are too many students dropping out or complete their course.
“We want to ensure that university is about jobs and skills and that people who make that big investment get a good job at the end.”
Reid’s co-presenter Richard Madeley then asked: “How do you define a good job at the end? Are you talking about income or are you talking about social worth?
“For example, if somebody is studying for a social care degree, they’re not going to make a fortune going into social services. Are you judging it on money, are you judging it on the moral value of the job that they go into? How are you making this assessment?
The minister said: “If people are doing degrees they should get a good job at the end, and that is in public service or it might be in the private sector. There are too many students not getting those jobs.”
He added: “All we’re saying is there should be recruitment limits on those courses that lead to those poor outcomes.”
But Reid hit back: “If I do a history degree and I end up working in a shop, does that make my history degree worthless or does that make working in a shop worthless?”
Halfon: “Of course it doesn’t make it worthless, but what we’re trying to do is ensure that those who do degrees have good outcomes when they finish their university degree.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street was also unable to say which university courses it was targeting - despite Rishi Sunak vowing to “crack down” on them.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: “This isn’t about specific subjects. We are subject agnostic.”
He added: “We do not want to see students going on to courses where the evidence shows there are high dropout rates or the students investing in them are not getting a good return.
“The vast majority of courses are good quality - it would affect the minority of courses.”