We’ve been noticing a distinct shift in the perceived value that a university degree brings. It’s largely accepted that a degree from an university, especially an ivy league one such as MIT, Harvard or INSEAD can improve expected earnings significantly. This has resulted in a seemingly all out onslaught by young people to get degrees, to the point now where getting a university qualification does not provide the competitive advantage it offered ten years ago. With so many new graduates, instead of providing enhanced opportunities, degrees have now become minimum entrant criteria for jobs at large corporations. And don’t stop with one degree, today’s graduates feel greater pressure to further their qualification with MBA’s and PHD’s. 78% of students are concerned about getting good qualifications. To put this into perspective, that’s more pressure than they feel to have sex, fit in or taking drugs – combined!
The Telegraph has an interesting article on University: was it really worth the effort? and an interesting website called notgoingtouni is encouraging school leavers to pursue apprenticeships as a viable alternative. When one considers the success of people like Bill Gates and Richard Branson who never got degrees you do have to stop and reflect on whether or not university is the best route to ensuring a bright future especially when the Office for National Statistics revealed that 746,000 18- to 24-year-olds are unemployed – a record rate of 18 per cent. It is thought that about 100,000 of those are university-leavers who, despite their degrees, cannot find jobs.
You can read the whole article from The Telegraph below or click on the link.
University students: was it really worth the effort?
Twelve years on, Tony Blair’s education mantra has a hollow ring, says Bryony Gordon.
Pillar of education: University College London ranks fourth in the world’s best universities after Harvard, Cambridge and Yale Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
Education, education, education. The almost half a million undergraduates who started at university this autumn probably don’t remember Tony Blair’s pre-election clarion call. And why should they? They were most likely only six or seven years of age when he promised to put their learning at the top of a Labour government’s priorities; one rather suspects that their priorities at the time were eating sweets, watching cartoons and avoiding Nitty Nora the head explorer.
But back to that lovely little mantra. It probably doesn’t cross Mr Blair’s mind much now that he is raking in millions around the globe as a public speaker. Yet this week, 12 years on, the results of all that education, education, education were laid bare when the Office for National Statistics revealed that 746,000 18- to 24-year-olds are unemployed – a record rate of 18 per cent. It is thought that about 100,000 of those are university-leavers who, despite their degrees, cannot find jobs.
All those years of education, education, education and then they graduate around £20,000 in debt into a world where there are precious few opportunities for them, partly because Labour let the banks run wild and then run off with all of our money as a reward. (Oh, were it that the Government pumped even a fraction of that money into this country’s academic institutions. But nah, let’s make the students pay through the nose for their degrees that will probably end up being about as useful to them as their 50-metre swimming badge.)
It’s nothing short of scandalous. David Blanchflower, an economist who used to help the Bank of England set interest rates, has even gone as far as to call it a “national crisis”. In an interview last weekend, he said that “two groups have been affected in this recession. One is those that made foolish decisions and bought houses and racked up debt. I don’t feel sorry for them. The other group is the young. They did all the right things. They paid for their degrees and now they have come out into the big world and there are no jobs for them.”
But let us speak to the students themselves. My friend Ed, bright as a button, graduated from Cambridge with a 2:1 in English – yet as the nights draw in so, he feels, do his chances of gainful employment. Then there is Hannah, who left Warwick University in 2008, went on to complete a law conversion course this summer, and is now used to receiving “thank you, but no thank you” letters from companies. “I am struggling to earn the minimum wage in London,” she says.
One of the people Hannah is now competing against for jobs in law is Catriona, who tells me that she has been doing voluntary work since graduating last year. “It’s very depressing,” she says. “I’m worried that once firms start recruiting again I’ll be left behind, as by then there will be several years of graduates competing for the jobs.”
Here I feel the need to question the Government’s obsession with getting so many people into university. Designed to create opportunities for more people, it has instead produced disappointments, and for some people crushing ones – this, they say, could be a lost generation who never get jobs.
A degree used to get you employed because of the simple fact that there were fewer people with them. Now that everyone has one, their worth has been diminished. Indeed, perhaps it is time to accept that many people would have more success not going to university. Tom Mursell certainly believes that to be true. The 20-year-old set up notgoingtouni.co.uk, a website which he describes as an alternative Ucas. “I was quite militant about it when I left school,” he says. “There was all this pressure to go – your parents, they want to be able to say in social circles that their child is going to university – but I wanted to look at the alternatives.” He says that there is a snobbery around apprenticeships that should not exist. “There are all sorts of things you can do without a degree.”
Are we really better educated than we were before Labour came to power? Perhaps a more appropriate mantra for Blair would have been this: qualifications, qualifications, qualifications.
Qualifying for what, I am not sure.