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Good intentions

Letters

There has been an interesting discussion in NCE in the past few weeks about civil engineering education.

However, it has been distorted by misreading of the government's intentions on higher education numbers.

In particular, Brian Shemilt is totally wrong to contend that the government has a 'manifesto pledge' of 50% university places.

The 2001 Labour Manifesto states: 'Our 10-year goal is 50% of young adults entering higher education.' A 10-year goal cannot be a manifesto pledge since governments are elected for a five-year period.

The manifesto later says:

'Over the next three years we will continue to expand student numbers, taking us towards our 50% target.' This is the only definite statement regarding the current term of office.

It is clear that there is a general intent, but not a pledge, which would be meaningless since no-one can force 50% of 18 year-olds to enter university.

In recent months we have been swamped with potential students complaining of the burden of debt they face. But no-one is forcing them to go to university. There are many other routes to qualification.

In this context I agree with Mr Payne and others that the Institution should resurrect alternative routes of entry. If people wish to go to university what is to stop them working for a few years after A levels and saving towards their fees and costs?

Ian Hamilton(M), 1 Albert Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6DJ

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