Degradation of higher education

“I am an enthusiastic graduate with a 2.2 in Cultural Studies, offering impressive interpersonal skills thanks to cheerleading socials every Wednesday chatting up the lads from the A-side football Team

This is becoming the CV of a typical graduate. Between lines prompted by careers advisors to conjure impressive reading, there is a barrage of tripe. “Very sociable” means a person who was the highlight of drinking circles, gulping down cheap beer until they attained “liver damage”. Unconventional courses with lower grade requirements has made university a three-year summer camp, four for those wishing to pursue non-native beers.

A graduate was once viewed with high regard. Banks, engineers and law firms recruited those who had dedicated exhausting years to study. Now, a bachelors from an average university is no indication of intellectual ability.

The degradation of the degree stems from Labour’s obsession with raising the number of 18 year olds attending universities. C-grade Charlie need not study for an NVQ- he can do a BA instead. Just offer easier courses: tourism management or fashion studies. Sadly, the deluge of average-ability teenagers has made employers believe that the whole undergraduate experience is no longer an achievement.

“Equality of opportunity” is one motor behind increasing numbers. The economic model Fordism taught the US that mass production gave the working classes the opportunity to buy the commodities of the rich at a cheaper price. But the result: deterioration in American culture.  Disneyland now epitomizes it. British education is undergoing a similar process. Labour has given the masses the opportunity to acquire higher-level education. The outcome: a pool of meagre and unimpressive qualifications. 

Brown has frightened people into believing that more people must study at university to ensure their employability in the services industry. A 40 per cent rise in our highly qualified workforce is needed by 2020. If not, we are doomed. China big. We small. But what he fails to say is that these new courses could be provided at colleges as vocational courses. 

It’s only common sense that we want the reverse of Labour’s creation: a better valued higher education system. One based on the admission of a smaller intellectual elite is the answer. And fewer numbers means less demand for resources, and thus the removal of the need for top-up fees. Employers would be confident they are hiring intelligent young people, as well as those who aren’t up to their eyeballs in debt.

Ryan Shorthouse

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