Study scramble

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IT was inevitable that universities across Yorkshire would face an unprecedented scramble for places as students eschew gap years ahead of the three-fold increase in tuition fees that will take effect in 2012.

The likelihood is that there will be some talented students who will be unable to fulfil their aspirations because their chosen course is over-subscribed – or places have been allocated to individuals who will go on to squander the golden opportunity afforded to them. Yet today's figures are another reminder to the Government that the successful passage of its student fee legislation is only the beginning of a far wider policy debate that needs to take place on the future of post-16 education.

For, contrary to the image presented by the recent student demonstrations, the majority of school-leavers do not go to university – this option is still a luxury for the privileged minority.

Other teenagers choose to further their studies at a local college, obtain an apprenticeship or join the ranks of the jobless.

With youth unemployment approaching record levels, it is important that Ministers consider ways to counter this worrying trend rather than devoting their efforts, almost exclusively, to the issue of tuition fees and a political need to neuter the unrealistic financial demands of students who still expect their studying – and associated leisure activities – to be subsidised by taxpayers.

While many graduates will, of course, be able to contribute to the Exchequer once they begin their careers, the same cannot be said of those who, for whatever reason, leave school with limited options open to them. As such, making sure that these youngsters receive every possible assistance must be an essential element of the coalition's education and welfare reforms in 2011.