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A recruiters group is calling for an end to government targets to get 50 per cent of school leavers involved in higher education.

It claims the views represent its 750 members who between them hire 30,000 graduates a year.

The recruiters said that aiming to get half of under-30s into higher education has driven down standards and devalued degrees as well as damaging the university experience for all students.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) said this meant employers no longer trusted degrees and there needed to be a move back to quality and away from quantity.

It called for an end to the degree classification system and supports the introduction of the Higher Education Achievement Report - which has already been trialled at 18 universities and should go nationwide next year. This gives graduates a report card which includes existing degree classifications as well as more information on modules taken and extra-curricular activities.

The recruiters also want an end to caps on tuition fees, but this should happen in stages and safeguards put in place for disadvantaged students. Parents and students should be encouraged to save for a university education.

Although it accepts that "there is no shared definition of employability amongst employers and universities", it still calls for universities to "develop the curriculum in a way which embeds employability skills in every degree course".

AGR also said the system for hiring foreign graduates was too difficult for employers - except for large firms which can afford legal and visa advice. The visa system should be streamlined and made more flexible for UK businesses to thrive. ®

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