The Week 8th March, 2015

So this week, I thought I would talk about the state of universities in the world and if a degree is even worth the paper it’s printed on.
I think the best place to start, as always, is the beginning. Gaining a degree or higher education has, for a few hundred years, at least been the stepping stone for young adult of the upper echelons of society to broaden their horizons. It was also the domain of real genius’, not the mensa phoneys, but real forward thinkers and creative flames, who may not have had the best start in life and a degree would catapult them from the normality of the working classes in to a highly mobile middle and upper class. This was the point of universities; to take the best and brightest. Unfortunately, as with Oxford and Cambridge and some of the other most famous universities colleges, their intake was not always the brightest as the wealthy upper class, due to tradition and also to get their young adults out of the family home, would send their children to these seats of learning. Wealthy under graduates, some of whom would be fairly intelligent but some would not so the fundamental principle of a university education has always been diluted from the start. Roll on through the decades, up to the early 21st century and the world had changed quite considerably. Now, rather than seats of learning, universities have become big business, a mass market push, opening their doors and appealing to parents who all want their children to get on in life – all sounds good but this had begun to take its toll on the validity of a degree. New Labour wanted 50% of the population to be university educated but as that has shown, it can’t work. As more and more people elevated themselves to become graduates, more and more children ended up heading off to university after school instead of apprentices and the like, creating a gap in the work force. In 2012, when I graduated from university, the boom of higher education was at its height in the U.K. with at least 38% of people my age with some sort of degree. Just look at what’s happened, huge unemployment, a struggling band of 20 something’s with huge debts. and jobs that hardly cover it, whereas roll back thirty odd years, when our parents were at that critical cross road in their lives and most of them had the money and finances from steady jobs or the ability to find job so they could buy a house and contemplate their next move in relation to what they want.
So that is the issue, a degree has become less and less important. I know this from firsthand experience. I have a honours degree in History and have never used it for any job since graduating. I have used qualifications I achieved through school to maintain myself as I worked to release my first book but nothing that linked to my degree, a degree that five to ten years ago would have led to a decent career path. All degrees are used for now days is as a another tick box, just like school exams, to say you have got this far – a degree is no longer an indicator of the best and brightest it’s just another level. Out of all my friends at the moment I don’t know of anyone who is actually in a job because of their degree. Now, because there are so many of us business and the like look at what else you bring and ask for experience. Which young people won’t have as they have just been a student, although there will be one in the interview process whose parent is in business and they will put on their C.V. that they worked in the business since they where 14 and have bags of but for those of us who can’t say that, and don’t have the family connections to bag the big jobs, we just have a degree which is an anchor around our necks, reminding us that we are suppose to be in this better and brighter group and that we can do anything we try! What is staggering is that one out of every two people go on to retrain after graduation, 1 in 2 that is insane – meaning that after three or four years getting a degree more money has to be spent getting a Masters or as in my case, getting my pilots license – delaying life until we are mid-twenties, nearing thirty! Only then we may start to get on track but still massively in debt.
And here are the winners – yes there are winners. The vice chancellor of Nottingham Trent earned £623,000 last year, or for my USA readers, more familiar with the dollar then about 1million and thirty thousand dollars. I found there are seven more in the UK with similar wages. I have no idea how much Cambridge and Oxford are paid. So there you go, paid a fortune from our money and for what I have to ask because it is defiantly not for bright futures and passing on knowledge!!! As we sink in debt, can’t buy a house and delay getting on with our lives the Vice-Chancellors are rubbing their hands with glee – throwing open their doors to more and more places for students, so they can make more and more money and roll about in it – the very people who had free education are now stripping us bare – as we pay for their obscenely inflated salaries – how can that be right?

  • Nottingham Trent University – Prof Neil Gorman – £623,000
  • London Metropolitan University – Prof Malcolm Gillies – £453,000
  • University of Oxford – Prof Andrew Hamilton – £442,000
  • London Business School – Prof Sir Andrew Likierman – £419,000
  • The Open University – Martin Bean – £412,000
  • University of Birmingham – Prof Sir David Eastwood – £410,000
  • University of Exeter – Prof Steve Smith – £400,000
  • University of Bath – Prof Glynis Breakwell – £395,000
  • London School of Economics – Prof Craig Calhoun – £394,000
  • University of Surrey – Sir Christopher Snowden – £392,000

If you are a graduate or you know anyone with a degree go and ask them ‘What did you learn from uni?’ and wait for them to tell you all their drinking games and fun but wait longer to see if they actually learned anything they didn’t already know. I admit that I loved uni but I know deep down that I learned nothing new – probably because I did history!!!
So that is my take on the university path. I hope you like this week’s news. I couldn’t sign off without acknowledging book week. We did a good pitch on ‘shelfies’ in the school where I am working, as people shared photos of their bookshelf – and I couldn’t finish without a nod to my first short story, if you enjoy any of my stuff why not head over and buy it, it’s only a pound or a couple of dollar’s to read – much less then the Chancellor demands for his time. Do read it and let me know what you think. Have a good week

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