What’s the point of university? Does its appeal lie in getting a higher degree, a better job or simply having that university experience which everyone insists on? I suggest that university is overrated.
Exam season is over. Speaking to other students the biggest struggle has been motivation. University has always been the hammered-in end goal throughout our education. We’ve spent years worrying about university; if it’s feasible, whether we’ll get the grades, if we will be able to pay off the debts that we’ve accumulated. Now being here it seems to be the end goal of the exam food chain. This is what we’ve worked towards.
Professor Danny Dorling recently declared Geography as being a ‘soft option for posh but dim’. I don’t believe these subjects are ‘soft’ subjects and I’m not interested in categorising them so. What I think has more value to focus on is the struggle students have with motivation in these so-called ‘soft’ subjects. They don’t tend to lead into any definite career and like I say, if you’re not sure what your next career move is, you’re pretty much at the top of the exam food chain. Is fear of failure enough at this point? And even when students do know what they’re going into, how is your knowledge on rock formations going to aide the mortgages you’ll be broking in a few years’ time?
Many schools have been promoting the idea of apprenticeships and, although often snubbed, they seem to make much more sense. Why aren’t they more popular option straight after school? The UCAS website says that just under 30 per cent of students went to universities in 2018. They can’t all be computer scientists or nurses. I don’t believe that each of these students is learning something that will help prepare them for their future. It’s the universities, now mainly businesses it seems, that try to sell the idea of the desirability of getting a degree — that it will magically solve young people’s futures and prepare us for them.
What is needed, is for young people to be informed about the various options. University shouldn’t be sold as the only decent next step following a state education, especially when if you want to have a career in your chosen degree, chances are, you’ll need further study than just an undergraduate diploma. The case then, is that for the most part, undergraduate degrees just don’t seem to be enough.
So why are so many choosing to apply to university?
The main argument is the illusive ‘university experience’ and the certificate allegedly proving you have mastered certain skills in comprehension and reasoning. Personally, I struggle to see the arguments swaying you away from apprenticeships. What we need is to remove the stigma around not going to university and what that says about a person. Yes, the top universities are notoriously hard to get into, and if you have good for you. But let’s not insist that getting accepted into one of them and leaving with a degree is necessarily a golden ticket. So what is? Work experience. That, I suggest, is what seems to count in the end.
So what is university preparing us for?
At my most cynical, I struggle to grasp the concept of the ‘university experience’ being worth the debts. This supposed experience is a little like Gatsby’s green light. He sees it, but can’t quite reach it.
I’m not however against further education. I love it and believe it should be promoted in every way for everyone that wants it. This is the problem though. It’s the manipulative greasiness of universities and the promotion of procrastinating degrees that I object to. Recent data supports this scepticism. For instance, in 2019 the University of Manchester had a £40 million surplus, amid stories of crippling student debt and striking teachers. As well as this, there are always theories flying around about the supposed length of degrees. Apparently, there’s not a single degree that needs to take longer than 18 months. Bearing in mind the infamously slack first year, I can believe it.
So where does the business side of universities end and the education begin? And, is it possible to have an education system where the students and not just the pockets of businessmen profit? These are just some of the questions we should be asking when considering that unique university experience.