Many school-leavers would be better off considering further rather than higher education, according to one of the world's largest banks and financial services organisations.
In the latest edition of HSBC's Economic Review Meredydd Davies, economist with the bank, wrote: "There will be a growing number of 18-year-olds for whom the expense of a university education will not be a cost-effective investment."
He foresees a hefty increase in graduate debt from an average of around pound;12,000 to more than pound;30,000 for 2010 graduates.
"Student debt is often regarded as an investment, to be recovered through higher earnings after graduation," Mr Davies said. But he says the Government's assertion that those with an HE qualification earn around 50 per cent more than non-graduates is a "sweeping generalisation" concealing "enormous variation between institutions and subjects".