Birmingham's universities have defended the Government's drive to get half of young people into higher education, insisting it will not render degrees worthless and leave students struggling to get a job.
Degrees remain the best way to ensure a fulfilling and successful career as well as a brighter financial future, according to the University of Birmingham and Aston University.
The comments came after a recent study revealed students fear they will be forced to take on more debt to study for postgraduate qualifications to make them stand out in the jobs market.
The findings, published by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, warned: "If the number of students participating in higher education continues to increase, having a degree will not actually increase employability and students will be forced to undertake, at more expense, postgraduate study to maintain a competitive edge with potential employers."
But Gail Rothnie, head of outreach at the University of Birmingham, said the fears were based on misconceptions of the Government's intention.
Ms Rothnie said: It is not about lowering standards to meet targets and simply bringing more people into university. The aim is to widen the diversity of applicants, targeting those young people perhaps from low economic backgrounds, who have the potential but wouldn't normally consider higher education."
Professor Graham Hooley, senior pro vice Chancellor of Aston University, said the widening participation agenda was a positive measure to be commended, not condemned.
Prof Hooley said: "The Government has been pursuing a target of 50 per cent for the last nine years and the widening participation agenda has seen a significant increase in students from lower socio-economic groups, low participation neighbourhoods and disadvantaged backgrounds - and that is to be applauded.
"At Aston, the percentage of students from low participation neighbourhoods has risen from 12 per cent to 14 per cent between 2000 and 2006.
"At the same time, academic standards have risen - entry grades for the university have significantly increased."
Drawing on her own experience, Ms Rothnie said further qualifications had always been a means of standing out in the jobs market.
She said: "Since I went to university I have been on a number of extra courses to get where I am today and it is important to remember that this progression often requires graduate experience.
"Investing in a degree is an investment for the future.
"The UK economy requires more and more people at graduate level to compete in the global market and degrees provide students with transferrable skills so they can move forward from one opportunity to the next."