Leading article: Degrees are not for everybody

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It is significant that Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, the University and College Admissions Service, says that many youngsters will have to consider whether their university applications are "strong enough" this year. The case for considering an alternative is, of course, stronger this year because record numbers are applying in the hope of beating the rise in tuition fees to £9,000-a-year next year.

Many will be disappointed this September. But they may end up pursuing courses more suitable to their needs. For years we have heard that we should encourage as many youngsters as possible to seek a university place, and it is true that many of our international competitors get a higher percentage of youngsters into post-school education. But most do not share our snobbishness towards vocational qualifications.

Now the mantra in the UK is subtly changing and the idea that alternatives such as apprenticeships should be considered is gaining momentum. If so, we need to develop the high-quality courses and training in these areas that have been lacking in the past. Ministers must insist that support is there.

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