Thursday, 23 August 2007

I agree with Boris

I know that this may lead to a permanent fissure with those of my old LCC comrades who now run the Compass organisation in the vain hope that it will drag Gordon Brown irrevocably leftwards and back to the halcyon days when Labour lost one general election after another. After all, their research team laboured long and hard to produce a booklet of Boris Johnson's right-wing lunacies(pdf). And what does Boris do? He writes an eminently sensible article about university degrees in the very organ that prides itself on downplaying the achievements of today's young people, and whose readers prop up bars moaning about Mickey Mouse degrees.

"It is notable how often a critic of university expansion is still keen for his or her own children to go there, while a vocational qualification is viewed as an excellent option for someone else's children. It is patronising, in that you really can't tell, just by reading a course title, whether it is any good or not, and whether it will be of any intellectual or financial benefit to the student.....Of course there are mistakes, and of course there are a great many students who drop out, get depressed, or feel they have done the wrong thing with their lives. But the final judge of the value of a degree is the market, and in spite of all the expansion it is still the case that university graduates have a big salary premium over non-graduates. The market is working more efficiently now that students have a direct financial stake in the matter, a financial risk, and an incentive not to waste their time on a course that no employer will value.

We can laugh at degrees in Aromatherapy and Equine Science, but they are just as vocational as degrees in Law or Medicine, except that they are tailored to the enormous expansion of the service economy. It is rubbish to claim that these odd-sounding courses are somehow devaluing the Great British Degree. Everyone knows that a First Class degree in Physics from Cambridge is not the same as a First in Equine Management from the University of Lincoln, and the real scandal is that they both cost the student the same."

So, on this occasion, I have to say, I agree with Boris. Is this the first sign of another big Tory u-turn in favour of university expansion?

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