Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Aditya Chakrabortty snatches Failure from the Jaws of Success

I wouldn't normally link to the Guardian, but there's an article that's really worth reading just to grab all the various facts laid out in it about the problem of too much degree education. No, really, go and read it.

Just prepare yourself for the epic facepalm at the end

University isn't just about getting a job, you might retort. I couldn't agree more. But that's what the political class has reduced it to. All the stuff that makes learning worthwhile – broadening one's horizons, having daft but heavy arguments with new friends – all that just gets lip service from ministers. And in turn, they've shaped an higher-education system that allows less and less space for speculation and taking intellectual risks. How are you meant to do that when three years at uni can now easily cost 50 grand, and you need to do one or two part-time jobs to pay the rent? What you're left with now increasingly looks like the degree factories the critics always warned against – only without the degree-level jobs to go alongside them.

On the contrary, that's exactly what the political class hasn't done. A jobs-orientated political class would have never increased the number of graduates from 19% to 40%. Or allowed so many courses in underwater basket weaving. Or when it appeared to be producing lots of BAs in underwater basket weaving rather than engineering or veterinary medicine, to have intervened.

As for having daft and heavy arguments with friends, you know, you don't need to go off to university to do that. There's this place called The Internet.

5 comments:

Kj said...

Ah, but having daft but heavy conversation with new friends is all about maintaining cultural capital. To distinguish themselves from the hoi-polloi, the champagne socialist requires a degree in underwater basket weaving, on the public purse, since they are distancing themselves from capitalism and all that.
That being said, I'm doubtfull about the ability of the political class of picking future winning graduates even if they wanted to.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"There's this place called the internet"

Or in old money, "the pub or anywhere where alcohol is consumed".

Lola said...

Wot MW sez

Lola said...

Read the article. That another few minutes of my life that I've wasted. What. A. Prat.

Bayard said...

TS, I think you've read that last paragraph wrongly. It doesn't look to me like he's saying the "political class" reduced a degree to "just about getting a job" deliberately, but they did it nonetheless. As he points out in the article, it was more a bit of international cock-waving, combined with (as, interestingly, he doesn't point out) a successful attempt to get youth unemployment down, although an old cynic like me would add to that it was also done to get the next generation used to the idea of being in debt.