Good news today that Mandelson's proposed cuts to the higher education sector may force degree-awarding institutions (I won't call them all universities) to churn students through their first degree in two years.
For many undergraduates, their first year these days is taken up with bringing them up to the old 'A' level standards. Under Mandelson's proposals, this would restrict degree-level teaching to just a year before graduation. For the bulk of students, this seems fine to me; a bachelor's degree is regarded in industry these days as about the equivalent of the old 'A' levels, students would suffer only two years of debt rather than three and we would reap the benefits of the most mediocre of our higher learning institutions slimming down as a result.
For exceptional students, and for good schools and sixth-form colleges, this could also offer substantial advantages. Imagine if good students could complete three good 'A' levels in a year, and that their schools or sixth form colleges were newly empowered to confer bachelors' degrees after a further two years study. Costs would be low, students could in many cases continue to live at home, and at nineteen would have their first degree. Those who then wanted to work could do so a year early unencumbered by debt, whilst those with a taste for academe could then enrol at proper universities for their Masters' or other higher degree.
The Conservatives should adopt Mandelson's initiative immediately.