Is it not more an issue of outlook and mindset that separates officers and ORs?
If one views officers as being more general managers who have to wear the responsibility of getting stuff done then the difference between the two tiers is much easier to rationalise when people are generally better educated and more intellectually capable across the board. I'm not saying a degree makes you brighter and more capable than someone without one I'm just saying as a cross section we should be overall closing the gap between people in society that the officer and OR difference reflected that society. The completion of compulsory education, for longer and at a better standard is better now than it was 150-200 years ago.
Just as in the civilian world I would hazard a guess that a pathway for career growth where the person doesn't go onto lead or manage a team is a hard problem. I see it in my world, the individual contributor has a much harder time getting into the upper echelons of a firm especially if not only do they not do people management but worse if they are bad at it.
So the whole degree vs. none thing should go. The question is what does a formal structure look like where you still need the ability to have someone very much in charge in highly testing circumstances (as I imagine combat would be, I'm guessing here I've never been) but where classes in society and education standards don't have that affect on the structure of the armed forces they once did. Perhaps it needs a fresh look.
What is being proposed with Henley Business School and Reading University is an incentive to enlistment catching the mood of the current crop of school leavers who are challenging the value of going to University and running up a mass of debt for a qualification of questionable value (although pretty much essential).
My challenge last night was, given we are in the middle of a manning crisis, why is this limited to Junior Officers?
The structure and culture of the Army needs to change to match modern technology and attitudes. A number of essential skills need to be developed both in house and by lateral recruitment.
At some time in the future a cadre of what is currently RD Officers up to Field Rank and Staff Officers in the more mundane SO3/2 staff appointments may separate from a different career structure providing VSOs and specialist officers, the areas where intellect is truly required.
The US Army does not seem to have the same issues and offers degree tuition in service and post service to all ranks regardless of their benefit to that Army.
For a fun bit of comparison, since 1969 the Irish defence forces have encouraged officers to have degrees by, upon commissioning and after 15 months service, sending most new officers to do a degree, "based on the needs of the service" and undertaking three further years of service for every year of study. Generally at NUI Galway, but also in other universities. It was unusual to have graduate entrants, and not every officer got a degree.. but the degree-after-commissioning route was and is common. It has often been seen as problematic, having officers studying during key years of career development. This new Henley business school lark sounds remarkably similar.
There has been an increased focus on graduate recruitment in the last fifteen years or so.