Monday, July 25, 2005

Over Qualified, Under educated.

In days of yore when men had mullets, women had shoulder pads, and pop music (apart from The Smiths obviously) was crap, I was a student.

There was no such thing as tuition fees and, apart from some mumblings from the Thatcher government, the student maintenance grant was seen as sacrosanct.
It wasn't much, but with a bit of part time work you could do your three years and emerge not owing a penny.

There were less than a third of the graduates there are today. A degree set you apart and you had your pick of graduate trainee jobs offered by blue chip companies. No debt and a good job almost gauranteed; we were a lucky and charmed generation.

The massive expansion of higher education over the past twenty years has changed everything. No one can argue against widening access to education; the more elitist system that existed in the past was heavily skewed towards kids from a middle class backgroud. What can be argued against is the governments assertion that a degree today has the same value as twenty years ago, and that the standard of education has not suffered from this rapid and underfunded expansion.

The funding per student head has not just fallen, the ratio of students to tutor has risen to the point where any notion of one-to-one tuition and support is derisory. Student tutorials where one of the bedrocks of our university system. The erosion of that bedrock must inevitably have had an impact on the quality of the learning experience. New technology and the interweb have made individual research much easier, but by removing the dialogue between tutor and student we have lost something vital.

It annoys me when the government continually quote statistics to prove that the average graduate will earn 40% more over their lifetime than their non-graduate peers. This figure is based on the earnings of people who graduated twenty or thirty years ago. It is not comparable. This is just another meaningless statistic bandied about to justify tuition fees and student loans. We all know people with good degrees who are working in call centres or stacking supermarket shelves. Lets face it, someone with a degree in Surfing Studies from Plymouth University is probably not going to earn as much over their lifetime as a qualified plumber.

We are already seeing the emergence of a British Ivy league of elite Universities. This is inevitable. If the British university system is to retain any international reputation for academic excellence there has to be an elite. In the future, the academic institution attended will have more impact on future career prospects than the subject studied or the degree classification attained. The government will of course insist that all educational institutions are equal. That is, of course, balls. They never have been and never will be.

If I was eighteen again I would think long and hard before taking a degree if I couldn't obtain a place at one of the top universities. Why lumber yourself with £18k of debt if the degree you come out with is of little or no value? If you ask me it is, as our American cousins would say; a 'fucking no-brainer'.


Herge Smith said...

My nephew is training to be a sparks - kids gonna earn a fortune - he's only 16 - by the time he's in his 20's he'll have all the things I never had... money.

It's a good point. When i was at uni (briefly - twice) it was Madchester, which was great -Stone Roses... erm oh Happy Mondays... and some other, not so great stuff.

The only Smiths he had was 'Hippy Chick'. Which I always thought was like having a shit on your hands and then wiping it all around the Mona Lisa - all the time saying 'It hasn't really harmed the original'.

But then again, it never really did. But I was a tad precious over the Smiths then... I wouldn't let anyone forget how much of a debt we owed Morrissey and Marr.

garfer said...

The Stone Roses seemed like the real deal. Shame they only had one album in them.
Shaun Ryder is gradually mutating into an obese Dobby the house elf.

Herge Smith said...

Shaun certainly is - he was in fucking GTA: San Andreas for fucksake - c'mon, not even Monkey man respected himself so little he'd do that.

Not of a fan of The Second Coming?

to quote another top movie -

"I like it"

garfer said...

Squire developed a bit of a Led Zep obsession. He was over infatuated with the 'guitar hero' image.
There's some talk of the Roses getting back together. Could be interesting.

Herge Smith said...

Hmm... I was really keen on bands reforming for a time...

I was in heaven when i saw the Pixies 2 years ago, but do you know what? - new bands, fresh bands are much much better...

Doesn't mean The Roses are crap, or The Smiths... far far from it, but seeing them now, reformed - not the same energy.

I did see Moz last year, which was nice - PJ supporting - even nicer. Small but very hot.

garfer said...

PJ is gorgeous. Has a scary image but is just a softly spoken Devon girl really.
Goes home and makes pumpkin soup and bakes stuff when she's not touring.

Herge Smith said...

PJ, with a couple of oven gloves on, in a little black dress, not clean, a bit covered in baking powder and flour, hair messy and a bit of lippy smudge from scatching her nose with her arm when she was kneeding the dough...


garfer said...

Keep your bakewell tart fantasies to yourself!

Wyndham said...

Come on, Breaking Into Heaven from The Second Coming has to have the best beginning to a song ever. It's a pretty good facsimile of breakfast at my house. And the rest of the album isn't bad either.

garfer said...

Haven't listened to the second coming in years. Perhaps I was too influenced by the duff reviews it got on release.
Will give it another try.

Sniffy said...

I loved being a student (in Leeds) between 88 and 91, it was something else.

The drive for more youngsters to go to University is nothing to do with education; it's all to do with the expansion of the "knowledge economy" and its knock-on for the finance (debt)sector.

Education should be free and based on ability, full stop. Make having a degree (from a proper university) actually worth something and produce some graduate with something about them rather than the bunch of useless tossers we've got in our call centres today.

Good post Garfer, as fucking usual.

You are a top notch blogger.

Thank you.