It’s also the case that the Anglo university system is based on a very old model: training people to be ministers in a church. Over time the model expanded, but it was still intended to deliver people whose working lives would be largely abstract and without much meaningful social impact.

Meanwhile in other countries, different approaches began to emerge. Germany, for example, has a 3-tier tertiary system: those with a strong academic inclination go to university; those with a more skills-based orientation go to a technical college; and those without the aptitude or desire for further education go into trainee programs.

The problem is, as you note, we use a university degree as a filter, a proxy for a wide range of often unstated variables. When I decided to go to university a bit later than is usual (my father died when I was in my teens, so I had to start bringing in money asap to support my family) I opted for Oxford because I knew the “brand” would matter more than anything else. So whatever changes occur, we need to be cognizant of the fact that people won’t change and therefore the utility of a degree will far exceed its practical value for a long time to come.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.