The recently elected president of the NSU in the UK, Liam Burns, is quoted in the Herald Scotland as saying the following when he was NUS's Scottish president:
At the end of the day, the point of the university has changed. If you look at when only 5% of the population went, that was about knowledge, discovery, pushing boundaries, people talked about the crème de la crème. That's not the purpose of universities now - it is about social mobility and people changing their lives. The reality is you need that bit of paper to get into better jobs with greater earning potential and influence. So we want as many people to get one as possible, at the expense of quality if necessary.
I did go to university when fees were paid, there were grants and I found work in the holidays without too much difficulty, so I do feel sympathy for today's students- I left with a degree and a tiny overdraft, not a huge burden of debt. However, I find what he is saying astonishing. If it is true that the primary function of universities is social engineering, then when was this change made and by whom?
Degrees are inflationary but he's advocating hyperinflation- the more people with them chasing jobs, the lower salaries will become and if this is compounded by sacrificing quality for these social goals, then companies will simply recruit foreign elites to fill spaces, which is already happening as we have record numbers going to universities combined with a skills shortage. The most likely consequence of his view is a greater social immobility and wider gaps. If the paper is worth less, it won't secure entry into the jobs he is talking about. I think university should still be about knowledge, discovery and pushing boundaries.