About thirty years ago, the number of students in UK Higher Education (HE) was around 800,000 – one in every six school-leavers. Now, over 2,300,000 – almost half of UK school-leavers – move into HE. The initial impetus for this massive increase in UK student numbers came from the 1963 Murray Robbins Report, which recommended that “courses of Higher Education should be available to all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so”. This thinking was reinforced by the 1997 Dearing Review of Higher Education. Then a further boost to universities’ expansion came from Blair’s New Labour which set a target for half of all school-leavers to attend a university or HE college. The reasoning behind the Robbins Report, the Dearing Review and the Blair government’s policy was that HE was seen as a public good that would provide a skilled workforce, opportunities through increased social mobility and a more educated, cultured, civil society.
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