Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Degree Factories

I've rented out a couple of flats to students in a nearby University town for the last fifteen years or so. It's interesting because it's given me an insight into the changing nature of the University Student. Several things I can say with certainty:

1) Although there are students who are extremely bright, there are also some who are literally as thick as what pigs do on their straw. If they are British then they will be on some nonsense course such as Film Studies but if they are foreign then they could be doing anything as the BBC has just discovered (about 10 years after it started happening). Universities love Foreign Students because they pay so much and will do anything to avoid throwing them out. I have never had a tenant who has failed to get a degree (even if they cannot read the rental contract, or use the bathroom)

2) There is definitely a growing feeling of resentment amongst the bright kids that Degrees are being devalued because they are given out like confetti. They know that the taxpayer would be able to afford to give them a decent grant and their lectures wouldn't be interrupted by endless stupid questions if there were fewer duffers sitting there. They also realise that there isn't anything that they can do about it. The Universities encourage them to do a Masters or PhD in order 'to stand out from the crowd' (and obviously generate more fees)

3) There is also a feeling of resentment amongst those who were encouraged by their teachers to take some daft course at a No Hopers University and left with a debt of £20k and nothing more than the offer of a job stacking shelves at Tesco.


Anonymous said...

I work at an oxford college and over the years I have seen a few students who could not cope and it's a sad thing to see because these people are very clever.
Now they do not let many people come to oxford if they can't hack it so I dread to think what the levels are like in some of the places you have in mind.

some bloke said...

I come across loads of students, mainly hoping for a 2/1 without realising that this merely confirms their mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Very disappointing to have you confirm my supicions about the British university system and how it's changed since I left the UK over 20 yers ago. When I went to Uni I think only something like 10% of the population went to Uni, so a degree meant something. And to graduate with a 2:1 was significant.

I'd been thinking about encouraging my kids to return to the UK to go to college, but I don't think I'll bother.

MadOldBat said...

Isn't one of the problems that they can't tell who the bright ones are because they all get A's at A-Level?
Still I think exams must be better than "summative assessment"(if that is the right term-I mean the constant projects and group hugs that appear to be the mainstay of the Australian curriculum).

Hibbo said...

I saw a notice advertising a room in a student flat "Close to both University's".

My own dear brother is 'studying' (if you can call it that, he's never in Uni) some writing based course, and they few pieces of coursework I've seen are full of txtism u no m8, but that doesn't matter!

MattMacL said...

Interesting article. Just corresponds to my experience - I was told (by someone 20 years younger than myself) that it would be embarrassing to admit getting a 2.2, which I did, not to mention the fact that I "only" managed BBD at A-level.

I replied that the govt could solve student debt by issuing degree certificates instead of birth certificates. Much more efficient!

Anonymous said...

Heh, I know a girl with a law degree who's currently working as a waitress!

Anonymous said...

I don’t think it’s fair to say a 2:1 is mediocre. I got a 2.1 and I had to work hard to get it, mind you it was in history so it at least a real subject. However I think I could have got a first if I didn't have to work so much. The people who fail are very often the ones who parents can't support them and so they must work long hours in crap jobs to pay the bills. The loan goes no where. Your actually better off on the dole, you get more money and you don’t have to pay it back.
My biggest problem is that for my money I got an amazing 3 hours a week of teaching and most of it was rubbish.
I'm now a qualified teacher and work at a college but I know many people who have degrees and crap jobs and it’s simply because they are lazy and happy to just stay where they are.

Anonymous said...

Far too true, Frank. It's patently obvious to anyone in or near the education system that this is the case - is there any way we can say this loud enough for the general populace (or even the government, although let's not get carried away) might hear it?

Anonymous said...

The problem is it's a domino effect, as degrees become worth less, NOT having one becomes even worse. So more and more people need them, which means they have to go to University, which means Universities have to adapt to them.

It's also a funding issue of course, Universities are under huge pressure to take as many students as they possibly can.

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