University degrees might be “grossly overrated.”
That’s the IQ2 national debate with National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Its Managing director, Dr Tom Karmel, says that while a university education is useful, there are other paths to consider as well.
His opinion comes on the back of a Federal Government proposal for 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 to have a bachelor degree by 2020.
Editor of Lip Magazine Zoya Patel says:
Graduating from university no longer seems to hold the import it once did. I assume there was a time when tertiary education was like a job guarantee. It set you ahead of the pack, put you in a different class of worker. Surely that’s why my parents pushed me to go to uni pretty much from when I could grasp a pen, right?
Now, it seems that a degree is just another trait expected of applicants in the job market – not an extra, desired quality, but an assumed one.
I’m speaking from personal experience – I’m a recent graduate and I have to say, finding a job after leaving uni was no easy feat.
I graduated from the Australian National University with a Bachelor of Arts degree (known to be the least useful degree available to mankind). I started applying for jobs pretty much as soon as I was sure I would be graduating. For months, I applied for every admin or Communications role I could find.
Although I got called, and interviewed, and eventually found a great position as a Communications Officer for a small not-for-profit, it struck me that at no time did anyone ask to see my academic transcript. I could have been lying about my grade averages, and no one would have known or cared.
Really, what people were interested in were my extra curriculars, and the outside work I had done (such as editing a magazine, and writing for a range of online and print publications). Ironically, my week-long internship at a local newspaper was of more value than my four years of university.
Why is it that employers are no longer that interested in degrees? Is it because they’re so ubiquitous now that it would be strange for someone to be applying for such jobs without one? Is it just because my degree is so unimpressive (I didn’t even do Honours), and my extra curriculars so numerous that it made sense to sideline it?
I still value my degree, and I definitely see the merit to tertiary education. But it’s interesting that, given the emphasis placed on vocational experience, there was not much of a push towards providing any such experience while I was at university.
Maybe the nature of universities, and the purpose of tertiary education is changing – could it be that degree are less about preparing students for the workforce, and more about a level of intellectual discovery that helps with the development of a life-view, but not so much with a fiscal return?
Certainly there are many far more vocational degrees on offer than the Arts degree I completed, but with more universities considering changing the way that undergraduate studies are structured, this could also be changing soon. For example, the University of Melbourne changed the way that they structure their programs several years ago, so that all undergraduates have a more general education, before specialising through a postgrad course into a specific field.
There’s something to be said for a holistic approach to education, but I wonder if recent graduates will suffer from a lack of vocational experience when applying for work.
Do you have a degree? Did you need one to get into your line of work? What was the one thing that employers placed most importance on?