Editor's comment

Sometimes, university can be the thing you do when you fail to achieve your life goal. For bright middle-class children, it used to be a means of delaying life's big decisions. Teachers programmed them for university because that is what schools were expected to do with bright children.

Now, in the days of mass higher education, everyone is told to go for it.

As ministers fret over Britain's skills crisis and apparent unwillingness of young people to stay on, they quote volumes of statistics showing how life chances and pay prospects improve dramatically for those qualified to degree level.

Tell that to Alex Turner, lead singer with the Arctic Monkeys - the hottest pop music property for at least a decade. As we report on page 1, he told his music tutor Richard Tolson, at Barnsley college, if it did not work out within a year, he was going to university.

So, it looks as if the Government is going to be four bright boys short of its 50 per cent HE recruitment target. Could be a problem. After all, targets are crucial - they have to be hit. Don't they?

Of course they do. But who would honestly say that the Arctic Monkeys took a wrong turn at 18? They owe much of their success to the further education system and the quality of music tuition they received at college.

Barnsley helped launch them on a meteoric rise to fame. It was there they gained the technical know-how to boost their talent. Had they stayed at school, they would not have had the same access to the studios, the music technology, the engineering.

This is no isolated success for further education. Colleges have been the inspiration for a litany of famous people from media gardening guru, Alan Titchmarch, to actor and author Stephen Fry. And, when there is evidence of real college success, this should be celebrated far more widely than it usually is. However, all is not lost for HE. If Alex Turner and co plummet from fame in the next few years, they could always sign-up for university.

Do it before 30 and they would, after all, help meet the Government's targets (50 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds in HE).

But there will be millions of budding musicians out there in the colleges wishing their tutors would think less about higher education goals and, instead, work hard to make Arctic Monkeys of them all.

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