It is no secret that the University system across the world is not always fair and based on meritocracy; if you don’t believe me, look at the likes of the great intellectual abomination of George W. Bush, who is Harvard educated and the originator of the great quotes of our modern age: “I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office” and “They misunderestimated me.” Hmmm….we certainly all ‘misunderestimated’ what a complete and utter douche bag you would turn out to be. So I thank Harvard and the honest admissions team which has churned out one of the greatest minds of American History.
I will however avoid a rant about the IQ of one man against one of the most elite institutions on planet earth, and instead ask the questions ‘how much value can the education system really provide to the life long prospects of today’s students? And why are there so many students actively struggling to find jobs? Is it right that students who come out with top degrees end up being pushed into jobs at discount stores offering zero hour contracts – compliments from our local JCP’s and Work Programme providers.
Obviously no one said it was going to be easy, and I can find myself being numb and frustrated by the sense of entitlement that some graduates have. I met a young man the other day who has been looking for a graduate job now for one year, and he informed me he was now willing to take anything. So when asking him ‘I know of a local vacancy in M&S around the corner if your interested?’ his response was ‘why should I work for minimum wage when I have spent three years working my arse off?’.
It is this snobbish attitude that creates a negative image of graduates across the country, and it also represents how many of us are still under the assumption that a University Degree is a direct route into a career. So, are our Universities really preparing us for the world of work?
No. Education as a whole opens vast opportunity, but it does not necessarily reflect the reality of the workplace, and this has become damaging to young students across the board. With more ‘skilled’ professionals then professional jobs, there is a evident excess of talent which is stewing and decaying away. Though I do believe Tony Blair had the right intent on encouraging half of school leavers to enter University, it was also a shame that the he failed to anticipate how one of the greatest financial collapses in the last century was going to leave the country flooded with skills but deprived of opportunity. So despite this, lets just make things a little bit more fair and raise tuition fees by three times the original amount! If that isn’t support, then I do not know what is!
Would I had gone to University knowing that I could get into over 27K debt just from tuition fee’s alone? Possibly not. If I had decided to go, I would have liked to think that (in-between the partying, being sick, visiting the sexual clinic and untagging precarious pictures of myself on FB) I would have put a plan in place to make me stand out from the rest of my peers to ensure that I would have a good head start upon leaving University.
I believe one route to a good start is work experience. As I suggested earlier, one of the main problems with the education system is that it does not really prepare students for the working world. The knowledge gained through University can be beautifully inspiring; it resonates with creativity and hope. But all of this can be a mirage of success. Being able to understand the intricacies of commercial law; having knowledge of the neural pathways which explain criminal behaviour; or the having insight into the many different meanings of Shakespeare, does not provide you with the practical skills to be able to apply your knowledge within the workplace. Thus, without the practical experience to be coupled with your education you are practically left naked, and all you have to show to cover your nakedness is a certificate indicating how clever you are in a certain subject.
Work experience will help protect students from this vulnerability. It will help prevent students from being attacked by the harsh realities of post graduation life, and it will enable students to develop practical skills to be accompanied with their academic success. And this is exactly what Blair should have promoted: for students to go on to University, but to gain work experience during their studies (as he has encouraged his own son to do).
Unless your in the same league as GeorgeW. Bush, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, or all three of our main political leaders, then the odd’s are against you in regards to securing a career at the end of your education. I do not believe we live a dystopian world (yet!), and as individuals we can help improve our own future, but this responsibility ultimately comes down to ourselves. Ask yourself ‘why am I going to university? What will I gain from coming to university?’ (apart from the hangovers, sexual regrets, and unforgettable friendships!).
Take the time to set a path for your future by having the assertiveness to get highly valued work experience (paid or voluntary). Do not assume for one moment that gaining a First Class Degree will directly result in a job, because the chances are it won’t! Utilise your career services team at University; see CV experts; visit regular career fairs; and form your networks. We are given a great amount of freedom at University (which I miss every single day); life after graduating can be a hard ride – it can be dream making and shattering. The outcome is not based on a flip of the coin though, and can help define our odd’s with some effort, resilience, and common bloody sense!
And remember this. As your sat in your lecture, struggling to stay awake, take a moment and look at all your peers in the lecture hall. Look around, and that is your competition. It is likely that most of your peers will just be focusing on their studies, and it is their education which will be the main focus on their CV. Education shows we have a theoretical understanding; work experience and education shows we have a theoretical and practical understanding.
By Alex Jones