UK: Why university standards have fallen

The new 'manifesto'- Talent, Opportunity, Prosperity - published by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) deals with a number of core issues in the current debate about the future shape and direction of higher education in the UK, comments Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, in The Guardian.

Here I want to concentrate on just one of them, namely academic standards. What the AGR says is that the nebulous commitment made by Tony Blair in 1999 - in which (to quote him) he "set a target of 50% of young adults going into higher education in the next century" - has devalued the currency of a degree and driven down standards by forcing thousands of students to enrol onto programmes that lack academic rigour and which are delivered by "below-average institutions". More specifically, the AGR manifesto declares that government-imposed targets designed to increase the number of students from deprived backgrounds risk being met only by lowering the academic standards of the institutions that meet them.

I believe that there has been a decline in academic standards overall in British higher education over the past two decades, but not for the reasons advanced by the AGR. The evidence for this decline is contained in the 2009 report, Students and Universities, of the then select committee on innovation, universities, science and skills.
Full commentary on The Guardian site