10/28/2005

The Great British University Degree Con

The first member of my family to go to university was my much beloved maiden great-aunt, now aged 95.
Aunty took a Master of Arts degree from the University of Glasgow in 1931, with the assistance of a Carnegie scholarship, which she later repaid in full. Although her mother, my great-grandmother, would never have admitted it, their circumstances were straitened, but not at all unusual. My great-grandfather, a postman, had been conscripted in 1916 at the age of 35 - he was a father of six - and fought on the Western Front for a year, went missing for six weeks and spent the years between 1917 and 1926 in hospital with shell-shock. He was never able to return to his original line of work.
Aunty spent 39 years teaching English, when teaching was a non-politicised profession, retiring the month after I was born.
Both my father and uncle graduated from the same university in the '50's, when the incentive for passing your exams was further deferment of National Service.
At that time, a degree meant something - you had to be able in order to go to university, but gaining it was an exercise in excellence, a scholastic exercise that you had to work at. A degree was not, was never, a golden ticket to a life of ease, far from it; however, one could suppose that it acted as a form of career insurance - it would only be rarely that any but the most ambitious would seek to change jobs, and when they did the degree made them more credible candidates.
Of course, the unholy alliance of the left-wing academics and the big businesses willing to pay for graduates in disciplines that suited their needs, and the political destroyers of both left and right, from Antony Crosland to John Major, have done away forever with the idea that a degree should actually mean something.
I'm a call-centre guy who used to be a lawyer. I should know.
Now, however, it's official - according to the Department of Education, and as reported by the 'Daily Telegraph', 'A degree counts for less on job market'.
There are some, like many in this largely pathetic bunch of Scotch whingers, who have apparently gone to university not for the improvement of their minds but the improvement of their wallets, which is why, when the crap hits the fan, they wander round like headless chickens clucking about property prices. But whatever financial advantage was to be gained from a university education should only ever have been secondary; the primary exercise was the expansion of the mind.
Today's graduates, never mind old losers like me, don't even have a secondary advantage to fall back on after the work they've put in. They might as well not have bothered, for they've been betrayed - betrayed by those who told them it would give them an advantage; and more cruelly, betrayed by those who told them they had an automatic right to a university education.
The elites, from the politicians downwards, don't, of course, care. They're there to be served, and it doesn't matter to them if the person doing the serving is an illegal who's driving down wages or not. They're there to make money and look after themselves, so if it suits them to have manufacturing performed at lower cost elsewhere, even if it means universities turning out engineering graduates who can't get jobs, that's fine. That's the way of the world, don't you know? That's just the way it is.
Unfortunately, I don't know. When thinking of those who have so cruelly deluded these young people, and the people who have destroyed the economy in which they could have thrived in the name of the false gods of the markets, one of a former president of the National Rifle Association's more memorable phrases springs to mind -

3 Comments:

Blogger The Three Gates said...

Bang on. I personally enjoyed my time at University. I studied what I was interested in (English Lit and History), and had little thought about what I would do after leaving (even though I did pick up a chunk of debt). The most useful thing I picked up at university was the sense of my own appalling ignorance, both before and after my university experience. The people who make me laugh are those that think that studying slivers of a discipline for 3/4 years makes them 'an expert'. Ho bloody ho.
Without a doubt, many young people are now being conned, and the whole process is looking a bit shoogly; a ticky box process for our great and good.

10:40 PM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

D

Yes, quite.

I wouldn't like to responsible for giving careers advice these days.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Canadi-anna said...

I wish I'd gone to Uni, and truth be told, it would only be for the improved paycheque.
My eldest daughter was telling me that by the time she is university bound (about 2 - 3 years) writing essays will be a thing of the past. Apparently, the anti-plagarism progams can't keep up and our universities are worried that the past few year's of students didn't actually earn that degree -- so, don't worry too much. Maybe that guy with the university education, who is doing the menial tasks for a living, is really in the right job.

7:23 PM  

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