Many students on journalism courses will not achieve their goal of entering the profession because they lack the academic ability and skills, former Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst told delegates at the Association of Journalism Education's (AJE) annual conference.
"We admit to degrees people who desperately want to be journalists but have no realistic prospect of getting that," said Luckhurst.
"What I have a problem with is teaching my students to reach a certain standard so they can compete with those who have got a first from Balliol, but I'm lucky, I get to teach my students for 30 hours."
Journalism academics in the audience raised concerns that management at many institutions encourage higher student numbers purely for fees.
The Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent has a very selective admissions system, Luckhurst added, but aims to offer a 'level playing field' by giving opportunities to candidates from 'more humble' and diverse backgrounds.
Undergraduate degrees in journalism offer opportunities for such students, who cannot afford expensive postgraduate training, he added.
"I don't call it fraud because a lot of courses will deliver skills that are useful and transferable to a number of different occupations," fellow panellist at the conference, Joanne Butcher, director of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), said.
Supply and demand for journalism graduates has shifted over the last 12 months: last year of 1,700 graduates from NCTJ courses only 200 achieved the top, 'gold' standard; yet the industry was recruiting 600 trainees, she said.
"But we've got to be careful about not selling the dream of becoming a journalist and not undervaluing the intellect and the skills you need," she added.
Luckhurst agreed: "An awful lot of people want to be journalists, a minority make it, a very small minority will make it through [a long career].
"I think that people don't just want to be journalist, I think they want to be journalists in such a way that they can pay the mortgage and feed the family."