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01 March 2012
Last week it emerged that the unemployment rate was 25% for the 21-year-olds leaving university last year, compared to 20% of 18-year-old school leavers. There is a growing feeling amongst the public that widening participation in higher education has led to a proliferation of ‘mickey mouse’ degrees and a corresponding drop in the quality of graduates. In 2010 a YouGov opinion poll found that 52 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement "too many students are going to university now and it's devaluing degrees". Worries over the link between widening participation and a perceived decline in graduate quality are still making headlines, most recently during the debate over the appointment of Les Ebdon as head of the Office for Fair Access. Commentators were quick to deride the nature and quality of courses available at the University of Bedfordshire, where Ebdon is Vice-Chancellor, and to brand his approach to access as a ‘model of mediocrity’. So should we be losing faith in