Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The great university rip-off?

There's a piece in the Guardian today which claims that many university graduates are now doing jobs which a decade ago, wouldn't have required a degree, and that those not from Oxbridge and headed towards the financial sector won't earn more than a non-graduate, while being burdened by debts. The argument is that while it's fine to shovel everyone into university to produce a highly skilled workforce, the jobs requiring these skills haven't turned up. So you get graduates doing non-graduate jobs, and the kids who didn't go to university don't get anything at all.

Ewart Keep, an economist at Cardiff, takes the example of a young man who studied history or social science at a former poly and comes out with a middling degree: "Statistically, he's unlikely to earn any more than if he'd simply left school at 18." Keep, together with his colleague Ken Mayhew, argues that the reason the Great Degree Scramble has not paid off in better jobs is because Labour did not try to provide them. That would have required nurturing new businesses and raising conditions for the most awful jobs – the sort of thing Blair and his party emphatically did not do.

Your thoughts? Has your degree proved useful or necessary? If you haven't graduated, what job do you think you'll get? Is it a matter of which degree and institution? How much do you owe?

Certainly judging by the appalling standard of the teams on University Challenge last night, more young folk should be toiling in the fields rather than sipping sherry in tutorials!


GMS said...

Too true about University Challenge - and the questions were so easy and obvious that even I got more right than the two teams together!

About the 'value' of a university education, though, it seems to me that one aspect, the one that I (and I think you) find the most immediatetely important one, is never mentioned these days: challenging and expanding the mind, allowing people to learn to think differently, enabling them to perceive that the world may not run along the lines they always thought it did (or if it does, it's not necessarily the only or the right way). Much more important to my, admittedly biased, mind than whether they get a 'graduate job' or earn more afterwards.

The Plashing Vole said...

Absolutely right. It's a marker of how degenerate the public debate has become that it's almost embarrassing to use the term 'education for education's sake' or to apply to a course because it sounds exciting.

Employability is everything now, especially outside Oxbridge. If you go to one of those colleges, it doesn't really matter what you do, but for the rest of us, there's a clear division between 'employable' subjects and 'mickey mouse' ones, which is ridiculous.