THE swelling of the British universities was announced in January 1989 by Kenneth Baker, then education secretary, who wished to widen access to an elitist system.
His target was to raise the number of school-leavers in higher education from fewer than 15 per cent to a third by the year 2000.
To encourage that growth, he introduced funding that rewarded universities for the number of students attracted. The results quickly exceeded expectations, with the proportion of 18-year-olds moving on to university almost reaching his target by 1993, seven years ahead of time.
The biggest change was in 1992, when 41 polytechnics and colleges were allowed to re-title themselves universities under legislation to free them from local authority control.
The former polys, eager to compete with the old universities, flooded the market with new courses and tried to woo students who had never thought about higher education.