To BA or not to BA…

When it comes to finding jobs, are degrees still the magic bullet or a nasty scam?

And so the debate trundles on endlessly, after years of education for all, the Orwellian nightmare of some animals being more equal than others comes full circle. Degrees have become so devalued and intrinsically useless from a career perspective that whilst many hold you should still have one (for completeness sake) the effect they have on your potential life chances are as limited as Donald Trump’s capacity for rational thought.

The noble goal of removing the class division when it came to higher education was of course right and proper, however in the zeal to encourage everyone to go we forgot one of the more important pieces of the puzzle – that the people should have the educational chops to do so. University was defiantly elitist, as it should have been, not by class but by intellectual rigour. Now with the soaring, US level fees that are being levied we are in the unenviable situation of having entire generations skipping through tinpot degrees in white water rafting from the McUniversity of 5 years standing and when they emerge blinking into the job market, £50 grand down and prospectless only then will they understand how comprehensively they’ve been duped. Of course it’s in no one’s interests to speak about such matters, with Higher Education in the UK worth a cool £73 Billion a year, it makes sense to take the cheques and keep quiet about this most gentile of confidence scams.

In the quest to be equal, we have served up a new form of inequality where there is a decidedly, two, possibly three tiered strata within degrees. There are the good ones of course from proper universities that still amount to being impressive on a CV, there are the others from former Polys and there are the lowest of the low from emerging UTCs. So we’ve not so much solved the issue as moved it on, into a magnificent carrot dangling thief machine. Graduates 21-30 in skilled work dropped 2.2% last year and there is evidence to show the dilution of the award is making it harder for employers to understand what they are getting as 3 in 4 graduates were getting a 2:1 or better last year. Well having paid for it, it’s only fair you get what signed up for. By making it a business it’s rendered the whole undertaking a rather dog-eared and sordid affair.

Such is the confusion amongst employers that even feted companies such as Ernst & Young and Penguin Random House have dropped a degree as a pre-requisite for applicants (officially, it probably wouldn’t do you any harm if you bunged an Oxon after your name). So, given all the confusion, mixed messages and in many cases the abject lack of necessity why is it that schools are so quick to encourage all students, almost regardless of their aptitude, to pursue the path to matriculation? For some it’s a honest mistake (honest in so much as they are not deliberately scuppering the fleet so to speak) they still believe it’s the golden ticket. For others it’s about bolstering the stats, so they can peg a tawdry canvas to the front gates announcing some inflated percentage of students went on to their first choice university. Either way it’s not great, cosy ignorance or blatant self interest. When it comes to university people had better be 50 grand’s worth of certain they’ll see a return on that investment, financial, professional or through improved life chances, otherwise it’s state sanctioned sodomy on a grotesque level. In short, students and their parents should take a good long look at the information coming out of schools and make sure it makes sense before they take the plunge.

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