For those small number of edu-warriors for whom the weekends represent nothing more than an opportunity to fulminate over minor news stories then this weekend has been a doozy. Most papers carried the story of a student who is suing her alma mater, Anglia Ruskin University, for £60,000 for misrepresenting itself as being a well greased doorway to a professional life.
Whilst it may smack of sour grapes to many, the alum in question did graduate with a 1st class degree, (although frankly it’s getting increasingly hard not to nowadays) and has struggled to find work, she claims her job prospects post graduation were over egged in the University’s literature.
Now. For regular readers you’ll know my take on this is, well duh. Anglia Ruskin has never enjoyed a particularly stellar reputation and the graduate in question wasn’t a meek 18 year old when she embarked on her studies. She was a little older, a little more savvy and might reasonably have been expected to exercise greater maturity in her decision making process. The university has historically struggled to worry even the top 100 in the UK rankings and as such the notion that a degree from there in her chosen field should kick down doors was somewhat risible.
In a crowded job market where there are more graduates than roles and with three quarters of them boasting 1sts or 2:1s ultimately university selection becomes increasingly important. It used to be that the simple action of studying at university was enough to solidify claims of intellectual superiority but now we are very much back to a tiered system of all animals are equal. The ever inflating levy placed on students has made the whole process of higher education a rather grubby and sordid affair in so much as it feels increasingly transactional. Students have paid a lot of money and not unreasonably this elevates them in their minds to being customers rather than students, and customers have a right to express dissatisfaction if the goods they’ve been sold do not meet their expectations. This is something we will see again and again and frankly rightly so. Students should complain, they are being churned through a cynical system that is more focused on its own survival and making ends meet than the lofty ideals through which they were borne.
In this story I have only a little sympathy for the student in question as a cursory look at the university’s performance in league tables and other metrics would quickly discredit the idea that it was a short cut to success but I entirely support the fact she’s done it. The more public dissatisfaction there is the more students and parents of students will have pause to consider whether it is the right decision. Caveat emptor should be the order of the day and it should no longer be a case of where to buy but whether to buy at all.