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November 30, 2002
Degrees: a barrier to advancement?

A few years ago I speculated how long it would be until a university degree was a positive handicap when it came to getting a job. It would seem reading this letter from a solicitor in the Telegraph that that day is upon us. The key line is this:

Lack of practical experience means that many graduates would have done better to have left academic life earlier and attained the background which would make them a more attractive prospect to an employer with vacancies (and thereby future opportunities) to fill. The apparent self-esteem and expectations of some candidates render them unemployable.
It was only a matter of time.

Posted by Patrick Crozier at 03:22 PM
Category: Examinations and qualifications

Yep, the degree market is dwindling. Any poor sop with a degree appended with the word "studies" after it is doomed.

There is a marketing opportunity here for toilet rolls with the imprint, "multicultural studies" Degree on each sheet. The great benefit is that the user would not need to attend, one or other, of those offensive institutions promulgating these odious '*?<>*-studies degrees. At least he or she could secretly use their degree in the comfort of their own home.

There will always be room for the pure subject degree, taken by someone who really is good at it and gets a first or a degree summa cum lauda. The other useful degrees, such as the professional ones, BMus LLB,JD, MB BS, MD likewise will be worth the effort. These courses will always sweat you for your diploma, and so they should.

Though I am a little suspicious now of some of the law schools that teach pseudo marxian gardening improver in between the tort and the contract. You know the courses with the appended "...studies" after the title.

Comment by: Howard Gray on November 30, 2002 04:47 PM

It's too soon to say that all degrees are worthless. Universities remain the main channel of professionalisation but expansion has led to more candidates than openings in many careers.

Often, students will view university as entry to or an affirmation of their membership of the middle classes. Hence, raised expectations of salary and position that are dashed when they do not have the wherewithal to function in the marketplace, if their degree(s) do not provide the required passport.

However, realism soon engenders a change of attitude, as they need to obtain a regular flow if income.

Comment by: Philip Chaston on November 30, 2002 11:29 PM

On a more serious note. The computer industry is leading the way. For many the best route in is to certify in the area of expertise that suits you.

For example Microsoft certifies engineers with the MCSE (Microsoft certified systems engineer). Other sofware firms like Oracle and IBM do likewise.

To obtain these qualifications you do the classes and sit the exam as soon as you are ready. You do not need a degree to do this. Once you have your certificate you can be employed and, to many, the certifcation is more acceptable than computer based degree courses. Many people taking computer science degrees do the certifications to ensure employability.

Is this good or is it bad? You tell me, I am uncertain about this. Only the A+ certificate is somewhat manufacturer independent. The linkage of certification to the large firms and the desire for monopoly is a dubious facet of the certifcation racket.

Will other organisations move to certify their skill base? My suspicion is that this movement is in part a response to toilet paper degrees coupled with a touch of the urge to create a monopoly.

Comment by: Howard Gray on December 1, 2002 07:49 PM

University education has become very largely a purchased commodity, desired for its value as a credential rather than *either* its value in liberal education or in practical professional studies. (I write from the States, but it sounds like things are not that different on the two sides of the Atlantic.)

The population has been convinced that a degree is a magic ticket to success "in a technological society," as well as that education is a generally good thing, and the universities are exploiting these beliefs in a way that comes pretty close to outright fraud.

Comment by: David Foster on December 1, 2002 11:41 PM

Perhaps. I've seen a number of studies which showed that college graduates have higher earnings than highschool graduates, but they may say more about the work ethic of people who went through college.

David is certainly correct that degrees are often just required because they are. When my father got his job as a network admin, he had to show that he had a BA or a BS. They accepted his BA in Biblical studies.

Comment by: Lucas Wiman on December 2, 2002 05:03 AM

As far back as twenty years ago "SOCIOLOGY DEGREE: FEEL FREE TO TAKE ONE" was seen scrawled on toilet paper dispensers in university towns.

Comment by: Natalie Solent on December 2, 2002 09:28 AM

"I myself was spared the intellectual humiliations of a college education."

(H. L. Mencken)

Comment by: Billy Beck on December 2, 2002 11:29 PM

The charity for the homeless, St Mungo's, did a survey of its 'clients' and discovered that a huge proportion (20 percent?) were graduates.

Comment by: Susan Godsland on December 3, 2002 01:18 PM

hey man, just want to say hi

Comment by: ip address on May 4, 2003 09:58 AM
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