Letter: University of life

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Sir: There is a way of avoiding the anguish suffered by A-level students and university admissions tutors. It is for all school-leavers to take a 'year off' before going on to higher education or training and to take part in some form of community service, either at home or abroad, for a basic wage.

The system works in Germany under the name of Zivildienst, which is a popular alternative to military service for boys and involves working in institutions such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes that could not otherwise afford enough staff. German friends say that their sons benefit enormously from the experience.

Before the unions start crying 'cheap labour]', let them suggest a better way of giving all young people an insight into working life and the needs of the community before they choose a training and career, plus the self-esteem that comes from doing a useful job, while making simpler and fairer the whole procedure of admission to further and higher education.

Yours faithfully,


New Barnet, Hertfordshire