According to the Policy Exchange, it increasingly looks like the end of the era of expansion for Britain’s higher education sector. For the past 30 years parents and young people have seen higher education as the only route to safety and success, as a growing number of mainstream jobs became graduate only.  But is this about to change?

The Government recently announced new measures to raise minimum standards in the education sector which means that, in order to avoid sanctions for high numbers of students not continuing or completing courses and not going on to decent roles, colleges will have to show that 60% of students end up in professional jobs.

This is part of a set of measures designed to raise standards and end the “bums on seats” reflex of some institutions, which are sometimes better at marketing their courses than producing well educated students.

Universities are clearly producing too many students for too few graduate jobs, notwithstanding the rise and rise of the graduate only job. Around one third of graduates are not in graduate employment 5 to 10 years after graduating, and the graduate income premium has declined to almost nothing for less prestigious universities.

It is argued that this academic-generalist model has led to two sets of disgruntled people, the people who didn’t go to university at all who feel like they are losing out when all the best jobs are reserved for graduates and the bottom part of the graduate class who are not getting the well paid professional jobs they expected. This problem is not going away because the number of top jobs is inherently limited and there has been a marked slow-down even in the broader category of professional and managerial jobs.

To read the full Policy Exchange comment please click here.