It took 20 years for Tony Blair’s dream of sending half the UK’s young adults to university to be realised. In 2017-18, the symbolic threshold was crossed when the largest ever proportion (50.2%) of young people entered into higher education. “Why if education is the key to success,” Blair asked in 1999, “do we allow so many children to leave school at 16 when we should be doing all we can to get them to stay on?”
Strangely enough, the answer to this question came from Blair’s own son, Euan, who runs a start-up giving non-graduates apprenticeship opportunities in work. He has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the UK’s university system, saying at a talk last night:
Actually as we are seeing in the changes that are currently affecting the world of work particularly around automation and digitalisation but also lots of other changes, that’s clearly not true. Problem solving is important, applied learning is really essential — university doesn’t give you any of that for that moment for the most part.
In a week in which Tony Blair has talked about finally accepting the fact that on Brexit, “we lost,” it looks like there are other tenets of his era that a new generation is fundamentally reassessing.