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University challenge, round 2

Despite now paying big fees, students know it makes sense to study, and most do. The remainder need even more expansion—which can also save left-behind towns

By Andrew Adonis  

Photo: eogphotos / Alamy Stock Photo

I am a great believer in admitting your mistakes in government. Looking back, a particularly big one was the 50 per cent target for young people progressing to university, set by Tony Blair in 1999. This caused intense controversy, still ongoing, with cries about “dumbing down” universities and undervaluing non-university options.

I now admit that the target was wrong. We should have set it higher.

For 50 per cent was achieved last year and we are now heading north—although few realise it—despite the fact that five years after the target was set, tuition fees of £3,000 a year were…

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