I AGREE with Keith Ross (Letters, August 14) that far too many school leavers are choosing to go to university, even though their job opportunities may be poor as a result. At one time simply going to university was sufficient to give you a head start in finding work, because it was very difficult to get in. Only those with academic ability and a strong work ethic could reach the standard required and these qualities recommended the graduate to employers, irrespective of the nature of the degree. With close to half of all school leavers now going on to full-time education, neither high ability nor a strong work ethic are required to stay on course.

An aspect of our education system that has never been optimised is related to the hierarchy of academic merit. To thrive in an academic system requires, above all, a good memory for detail. It is much easier to set examinations that test recall rather than other qualities such as common sense or logical reasoning. As a result we tend to give the top honours to those with a facility to recall masses of stuff in the artificial sessions that we call exams.

Many of those who do not thrive academically are not stupid. On the contrary, they may have an aptitude for problem solving or original thinking, without bothering with screeds of insignificant detail. Added to that, many people can only become enthused with three-dimensional real-life problems; to them, paper-based learning is unsatisfying.

Those who come into the latter category are much more likely to find a satisfying career through an apprenticeship, preferably with close links to a like-minded teaching institution, whether that be a technical college or a university. The name of the college matters far less than the student being a round peg in a round hole.

The root of the problem may lie in our ancient class system, in which those whose work is sometimes with their hands have lower status than those who work solely with their heads, irrespective of the intellectual demands that the work places on the individual or the value to the community. It is a great pity that many school leavers may take a wrong turn in the misguided belief that they are moving up in society.

Roger Waigh, Helensburgh.

KEITH Ross laments the proliferation of undergraduates and the linked lack of apprenticeships and he is right to be concerned. There is no doubt that the significance of tertiary education has been devalued by the drive to achieve the Blairite policy of 60 per cent of youngsters going on to university. That policy was not born out of altruism but simply as a stopgap in the response to the lack of real productive jobs. We have created a generation of graduates with worthless degrees thrust into an employment market based on service industries.

We should be asking why we import skilled workers for our health and social service systems, why Poland can produce plumbers and we can’t. The answer is of course money, it’s the cheap option. We live in a society where the general population believe they are valued citizens where as the Establishment treats us as a resource which if found not to be profitable is thought to have no value but an actual drain on the wealth of the country, their wealth. Any critical analysis of for example Universal Credit or the two-child policy can see that is the case. Corporate tax law covers volumes yet PAYE rules fit on the back of a fag packet.

We need to wake up and let Boris Johnson and the rest of the Bullingdon Club members know we want change not a country manipulated in their interests but ours.

David J Crawford, Glasgow G12.