Are UK Universities Fit For Purpose?

August 21st 2019: The New Statesman cover story was entitled The Great University Con: How The British Degree Lost Its Value, including the rather Churchillian comment:

Never before has Britain had so many qualified graduates. And never before have their qualifications amounted to so little.

The New Statesman

The crux of what was an excellent, albeit depressing, essay was that the introduction of fees has seen a corresponding increase in commercialism and competition, with a shift of power to the student, who basically have the mindset that they are paying for their degree so they better get a good one, and the university should be happy to have ‘their business’.

The image painted of students today and their quest for a degree was a far cry from my experience in the 1980’s where I somehow emerged with a BA (Hons) Economics and a MSc Information System Design & Management.

No carting books around campus, trying to remember where the library was, cramming for exams with only 10 pages of notes from a whole year!!! Seems that nowadays you not only get told in advance what you going to be asked, you can pretty much download a pre written response off the internet. I am not saying that wouldn’t have been tempting, but years later as I write this at my desk I still have my student books on a shelf, and often look at them fondly. Many remain unopened, but that’s not really the point.

When I do cast my mind back to those years it isn’t the lectures that come to mind, it’s the endless hours of discussions that we had; seminars they were called I recall, sessions in the pub I certainly remember.

It was the lack of this debate by todays students that struck me most in the article, and filled me with most ‘dread’. Having interviewed and employed far to many people to remember over the years I can honestly say that the type and level of degree very rarely factored into the decision to employ of not. Sure a certain weight was put on qualifications, but I always saw a degree as having demonstrated the ability to get one: to live away from home, to manage your own finances, time and relationships, to show an ability to study, understand and articulate.

A well rounded individual, with good skill set, that would ‘fit in’ was what we wanted and by and large the Universities provided them.

Today though I fear it is another matter ….. the article really only confirmed what I had experienced over the years, a general dumbing down of intellect, matched only by an inflated opinion of intellect and ability.

You think I am exaggerating? August 15th 2019 The Times published an article entitled A-level maths pupils need only 14% to pass this year. A depressingly low percentage, assuming you understand percentages that is.

December 19th 2018 The Times (again) wrote University gives half its students a first-class degree. Seriously only one student on my Economics Course got a First. It wasn’t me, although I suspect that at todays pass rates I am now borderline genius and am considering updating my CV accordingly!

Finally, and with some positive news, 14th August 2019 the BBC wrote about the University Academy 92 as a ‘game-changer‘. By focussing on those with non academic backgrounds, with course hours flexible enough to accommodate other commitments, and a range of courses more suited/focussed on todays skills shortages I particularly liked the concept of a personal development coach, picking up from the mentoring they received as players.

Mentoring …… something I have a lot of experience of and intend to develop through our range of Consultancy Services.