So it MAY be still worth going to university after all! (The follow-up blog)

In my last blog post I wrote about how it’s probably not worth going to university any more in this day and age for three main reasons:

  1. The extortionate fees – that says it all really;
  2. The way we learn has changed – YouTube and Google may well be the university lecturers of the future;
  3. Some of the top entrepreneurs of our time (Mr Virgin empire included) didn’t go to university and they haven’t done too badly in life.

So I invited comments on Facebook and in my Working in Higher Education LinkedIn group and received some very interesting responses on both sides of the fence.

 

First, the “not worth it” gang:

 

“My biology degree did nothing to equip me to handle a drunk heckler in a London pub, or a gobby commuter whose oystercard has stopped working – which is how I pay the bills these days!”

“University education is not for everyone and no parent should feel under obligation to send their children through uni unless it’s the child’s passion and they are academically-oriented. Most of us were lucky enough to benefit from free university education but attended for the wrong reasons. My biology degree did nothing to equip me to handle a drunk heckler in a London pub, or a gobby commuter whose oystercard has stopped working – which is how I pay the bills these days!” Ola Aralepo – Comedian/Public speaking coach & trainer

 

 “She said, ‘I adored my university years’ and went on to say, ‘although I have never used my degree directly’. I really don’t understand that last comment. So much money spent or borrowed for what?”

“I shared your blog post on my Facebook page. It didn’t go down well from some older women who’d been to university (I haven’t) and who had sons/daughters who’d also been or were still there. They saw it as a right of passage and as “a unique experience to be enjoyed for what it is”. Another said, “I adored my university years” and went on to say, “although I have never used my degree directly”. I really don’t understand that last comment. So much money spent or borrowed for what?” Kathy Gower – retired psychotherapist (@kathygower)

 

The university supporters:

 

“Graduates, myself included, do earn more than non-uni educated people and are promoted over and above people without a degree.”

“Despite the rising cost of Uni tuition, I still think it’s a vital route to a profitable and sustainable career, particularly in this class-conscious British society, competing with the old-boy network. Graduates, myself included, do earn more than non-uni educated people and are promoted over and above people without a degree.

Also, yes entrepreneurs are an exception to the rule, but Simon Cowell and Richard Branson are both from private school and monied backgrounds so had access to business advantages. Alan Sugar is the entrepreneur that springs to mind who is entirely self-made and I have the utmost respect for him.

In short, uni fees are a way to control, perpetuate and legitimate class inequalities and to close the door to working class and low-income families, but I would still recommend people to go to university as during their working life they can pay back the debts and five years down the line, will earn more than their non-uni counterparts. My degree was in English/Sociology and a postgraduate in journalism.  I worked as journalist for years and I am now teaching/tutoring in all the subjects I studied at degree level.” Siane Daley – Journalist / Tutor

 

“We are all going to work for 45 years or more. More than ever the furnishing that comes with a university education will need topping up – but the discipline will stand you in good stead.”

“Let’s leave aside the issue that not going to university would prevent you from undertaking a range of professions, many of which are the standard high status ones that still underpin our society: doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc. And, although there are routes into some other professions without university, say teaching, these are marginal. You can’t become a surgeon through watching YouTube!

The important thing is in our information rich world, that a university education shouldn’t just be filling you up with stuff, it should be training you to use knowledge and challenge it. Nearly 200 years ago, the faculty of Yale College produced a classic statement of what a college education gives you. They said:

“The two great points to be gained in intellectual culture, are the discipline and the furniture of the mind; expanding its powers, and storing it with knowledge. The former of these is, perhaps, the more important of the two. A commanding object, therefore, in a collegiate course, should be, to call into daily and vigorous exercise the faculties of the student. Those branches of study should be prescribed, and those modes of instruction adopted, which are best calculated to teach the art of fixing the attention, directing the train of thought, analyzing a subject proposed for investigation; following, with accurate discrimination, the course of argument; balancing nicely the evidence presented to the judgment; awakening, elevating, and controlling the imagination; arranging, with skill, the treasures which memory gathers; rousing and guiding the powers of genius. All this is not to be effected by a light and hasty course of study; by reading a few books, hearing a few lectures, and spending some months at a literary institution.”

So, it was the case in 1828 that you could go and get a bit of information to furnish your mind (books rather than the internet) but you needed to discipline it. In 2012 that will remain. We are all going to work for 45 years or more. More than ever the furnishing that comes with a university education will need topping up – but the discipline will stand you in good stead.” Mike Ratcliffe – Director of Academic & Student Affairs, Oxford Brookes University (@mike_rat)

 

“On average, graduates earn more than people with lower level qualifications so it really is a win-win situation!”

“I think we should concentrate on the concept of “worth” – if we mean it to be “providing a life enhancing experience” or “contributing to personal and professional development”, then it is definitely “worth” going to university, even if tuition fees are set at £9,000 per year. If however you think you can rock-up, read a few pieces on the internet, do a bit of coursework and a few exams and guarantee yourself a gold-standard graduate job on completion…erm…you might be in for a nasty shock when you leave. Having said all of that, it is still borne out by the data that, on average, graduates earn more than people with lower level qualifications so it really is a win-win situation!” Dan Ferrett – Company Secretary at AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) (@DanFerrett)

 

The inbetweeners:Uni? You decide...

 

“Going to university, however, is getting just as hard, financially, as opening a business. Fees should, therefore, be seen as a future investment as opposed to a hindrance.”

“I think that going to University is just another option. In life options are vital for catering for different needs. Not everyone will go for the same thing; however, for those that desire to do other things, there needs to be choices. University is just as relevant to one’s potential success as becoming an entrepreneur, going to school and so on. Some people may think it’s a good idea to go before going into business, yet there are others that may not. It all depends on the person. Some people like the idea of learning in a controlled environment and others don’t. That’s just life.

Going to university, however, is getting just as hard, financially, as opening a business. Fees should, therefore, be seen as a future investment as opposed to a hindrance. Problems should be seen as an opportunity rather that stress. Choices are important as they ensure all are included within the system. On occasions, however, those that lose interest, as well as hope, sometimes become what we all dread, yet misunderstand.” Amal Molefi – Teacher

 

“For the vast majority of prospective students, the new fees structure will mean that they give a lot more thought to whether a university degree will be worth their time and money…”

“I think your point here raises something really key – that the delivery models that universities currently offer will, in many cases, have to be reviewed if prospective students are to be persuaded that a degree is worth their while.

I agree that for the vast majority of prospective students, the new fees structure will mean that they give a lot more thought to whether a university degree will be worth their time and money. I’d hope that in many cases, they will still conclude that it is. But it seems probable that some will hesitate, and I believe that the more savvy institutions (who recognise that this demographic of student is in their target audience) will step up to the challenge by offering different delivery models.

Distance learning, partnerships with companies for sponsored places, part-time options and compressed degrees are some of the opportunities available to institutions.” Anna Myers – Communications Manager, Distinct project at Oxford Brookes University (www.distinct.ac.uk) (@Distinct_in_HE)

 

“Recent changes have made young people question whether it is the right option for them and I welcome this.”

“I think that there was a trend in going to university so it just became a normal part of life for most 18 year olds. Recent changes have made young people question whether it is the right option for them and I welcome this. However, I do think that some people are being deterred by affordability rather than reasons that are empowering to them.” Sufiya Patel – Communications Trainer & Social Entrepreneur (@sufiyapatel)

 

Where do you stand on the issue…?

 


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