The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

We Just Don’t Need That Many Graduates (In Arts)

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 24, 2010 @ 10:22

Mean. But not far wide of the mark...

We are always told that the British economy needs graduates to survive. It does. But those who advocate such a line typically gloss over the fine details.

When you put degrees under the microscope, and the fact that in each year that passes the number of overall graduates continues to soar, the equation no longer adds up.

In the globalised economy, Britain needs to stay competitive. There is no alternative any more if we want to sustain the trend of rising quality of life for all.

To stay competitive, Britain does indeed need highly-educated, highly-qualified and highly-skilled graduates. But not just graduates in any old tat. Golf course management, no. Politics? Not on your nellie. These courses simply do not provide a marketable skill distinctive from each other. The result is an agglomeration of graduates, ostensibly highly-educated and qualified, but with nothing really that makes the big employers get excited.

The achievement of Progress (TM) from one generation to the next invariably comes from breakthroughs in science and technology. Such talent can almost always only come to fruition via a pathway of education. The road to the future is paved with the efforts of physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians… doctors, researchers, engineers. It doesn’t come from the accountants, the lawyers, the stockbrokers, the bankers, the lobbyists.

There is always a requirement for leaders, creative/critical thinkers, and visionaries. There is always a need for people to teach the scientists of the future. And there is always the need for a huge amount of other people to support this technocratic visionary society. And lest we not forget the need for cultural stimulation, in stories, music, paintings, sculptures and so on. But how many of these need a degree?

Of course, this argument ignores the obvious, that university is not all supposed to be about what you can offer an employer, and it would be a loss if we were to focus purely on economic output all the time. It’s supposed to be about the love of learning, and about the sheer joy of indulging in your specialist field. And getting drunk along the way. It is as much of a development as a person as it is finding your niche in the workplace. I don’t deny any of that.

But my worry is this.

The system now is designed to put young people on a degree course. Any degree. It doesn’t matter. A degree will guarantee you future earnings. It is your passport to a golden career. That’s what I was told eight years ago.

Schools and careers advisers are selling something that no longer exists. Back in the day when a much smaller proportion of the population had a degree, just having one was a sign of quality for an employer. A shorthand that allowed them to think you were worthy of a job. Now so many more people have them, employers have to drill down that much deeper.

And that means your general arts degrees in English, history, and the newer fields of business studies, politics, etc. no longer open the doors that they used to.

There simply isn’t the graduate jobs market that we think there is for them. And it’s raising a whole generation of people who are feeling pretty let down by their elders, who we trusted, and were supposed to have known better.

Mix all that with a little recession…


One Response to “We Just Don’t Need That Many Graduates (In Arts)”

  1. Roger Shade said

    I am not sure I entirely agree with you. Certainl;y we need more people studying Engineering for example but we also need accountants, managers and designers. THere are many jobs that are better learnt ‘on the job’that now require young people to go to university for example Entertainment Management and even nursing. I think it is however wrong to dispense with the old subject degrees in History, Economics and English and it might be very useful for more graduates in modern languages.

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