Return to the ivory tower

Decorative illustration of a gate with the text 'Return to the ivory tower'
Decorative explanation of 'Return to the ivory tower'

Attempts to widen participation in higher education have failed as wealth inequalities grow more acute, state funding of higher education declines and automation decimates semi-skilled work. 

The majority of the population has access to basic post-compulsory training in the form of upskilling, microcredentialing and workplace learning. However in-depth academic study is now feasible only for the small proportion of the population likely to move into elite roles, and the function of universities as engines of social mobility has declined. 

Universities have returned to the traditional, elite models of the 20th century, with severely capped intakes, one-to-one tuition, an emphasis on data science and liberal arts, highly influential alumni networks and the central role of the (often gated) physical campus as the locus of university life. 

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