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University education: who should pay?

There has been much argument as to whether today's young people should pay for their own university education because of the benefit to them, or whether we should all pay because our society needs an educated workforce.

To compete in our increasingly globalised commercial environment we need a good supply of graduates in serious disciplines. We should all expect to pay to educate people in maths, the sciences, engineering and medicine, for example. But this year's UCAS listings are full of courses for jobs which are not essential to our society. There is a whole page of subjects with "sport" as the first word. On the creative side, there are courses in dance, drama, media studies, music, musical theatre, and theatre.

If we did not have to pay for students of frivolous subjects, there would be money available to fund the training of the workforce we need. Of course, we must have sport and arts in our lives, or the world would be a dull place , and we must not forget that the creative arts contribute to our export earnings. But the number of training places on offer is out of all proportion to the size of workforce we need in these areas.

Traditionally the great majority of the population has been employed in jobs that need doing and people have indulged their passions in their spare time. Only the fortunate few have been able to earn their livings doing what interests them most, and it does our present generation of young people no service to let them believe that it can be otherwise.

Michael A Isserlis, Northwich, Cheshire

Belfast Telegraph