Over-qualified but no Experience: What is a Degree Worth Nowadays?

The way we understand a university education is changing rapidly. The idea that a university degree is the ticket to your dream job is not one that is relevant or true to a large extent now. With more than half of UK graduates in non-graduate jobs, it feels pertinent to stop and ask whether university is actually worth it nowadays. Have we reached a point where school leavers should turn their backs on the assumption that university is really the next logical step?

Okay, there is no doubt that university is a great experience. A first taste of real independence, meeting new people and getting involved with societies can teach you a lot about yourself, bring you out of your shell and simply change you for the better. The university experience is, and always will be, a positive one for personal development. Yet of course this experience comes with an exceedingly large price tag – tuition fees, student accommodation and everything else in between.

While it’s true that student loans don’t have to be paid back until you’re earning over a certain amount, it can still feel pretty demoralising to know that there is somewhere between ten and thirty thousand pounds of debt hanging over your head before you have even reached your mid twenties. So, it is really no wonder that graduation day had a certain bittersweet feeling to it. All the hard work paid off in achieving the grades I wanted but I feel I speak for many fellow graduates in saying that I don’t feel any more employable than I did before I completed my degree, combine that with the pile of debt and you have a very bitter feeling indeed.

The assumption that university is assuredly the best option for school leavers is one that should be altered. Although, I’m glad I completed my degree and thankful I had the opportunity to do so, I also feel I would have benefited at the time I was applying to uni from some advice that a degree is not the only means of attaining a “good” job or indeed your dream job.

We have all faced the deflating moment checking the criteria for a job only to find that it is essential to have a certain amount of experience to even be considered for it, no matter how enthusiastic you are about it. Indeed, a mere glance on the requirements for a job you’re interested in will show that there is much besides a degree that will make you a desirable applicant. As a graduate I bitterly have come to understand that work experience and skills really mean a lot more to a prospective employer than simply a degree. And that isn’t even to say I don’t have work experience either. I’ve worked part time for the guts of five years whilst studying.

While a degree shows you have the dedication and hard work to persevere with something difficult, it is just common sense that your degree won’t measure up beside someone who has A-Levels and three years’ extensive experience in the field you are applying for. Would it have been better to leave school, try to get some work and work your way up from there? Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development chief executive Peter Cheese has stated that “It’s crucial we as a nation take stock now of whether our higher education system is delivering desired returns for graduates, for organisations, and society,” further outlining that apprenticeships may be a better option for school leavers than higher education. You can earn money, learn workplace skills and gain valuable work experience all at the same time. Yet, an apprenticeship wasn’t even something I had heard of until recent months, it was never something I’d came across in careers classes at school.

Yet with a record number of students heading to university this September in the UK, the university option for school-leavers is not losing any of its popularity. While workplace skills and experience count for a lot when applying for a job, the abundance of young people in the UK who will have a university education will very likely, in the long run, have an impact upon qualifications criteria for jobs. This means that with work experience held in high esteem combined also with education expectations being raised, jobs are very likely to just get harder and harder to attain.

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The Banning Trend

I recently read an article on how some of the “top” universities’ students’ unions have banned The Sun from being sold on campus. Now, let me get something straight, I am not a fan of the The Sun by any stretch of the imagination, I think it’s a pretty woeful publication and I would never purchase it. However, seeing that it has been banned has really got me questioning why exactly this practice of universities banning things has caught such momentum. Why is this a thing that keeps happening?

Okay so, yes, The Sun is an awful publication, run by a big monopolising corporation, that sensationalises everything, publishes lies, objectifies women.. (What was that point I was trying to make again?) Oh yeah, BUT, if universities BAN the newspaper what difference is that making exactly? I am a strong believer in the freedom of speech and The Sun, as detestable as it might be has every right to continue publishing just as I have every right to post this article. By banning the publication it is doing nothing to solve the terrible things about the newspaper, if you’re going to ban it you may as well just pretend it doesn’t exist because, and I should definitely make this clear, that it WILL be available in other shops that aren’t on university campus, where students can y’know go into and PURCHASE it (WHAT?!)

The same goes for the recent censorship of Blurred Lines by the glorious (that definitely WAS sarcasm) Robin Thicke which many, many universities including my own have actually banned from being played on campus. For a long time I was very conflicted about whether I agreed with it being banned or indeed if I agreed with any music being banned, because again it is acting as though it doesn’t exist. I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually agree with it being banned. I am a firm believer that retaliation is a much better means of tackling the problem hands on as opposed to what is the equivalent of covering your ears and shouting. If you have a problem with the song you have the means and the capabilities to speak up about that, get the message out & PROVE why it’s terrible, why it objectifies women, shapes a rape culture and everything else that’s woeful about that song. Shape and continue to shape opinion of that terrible song so that it the majority’s collective, personal distaste for the song becomes the reason for it disappearing from consciousness and playlists as opposed to pretending it doesn’t exist in a tiny section of a town or city. Like other shops selling The Sun, other nightclubs CAN play that song and will.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the merits of banning The Sun and Blurred Lines. It will foster the message that it’s a terrible publication and a terrible song. It will tarnish the reputations of the two making both students and society to some degree less inclined to purchase The Sun and/or listen to the song. However, it needs to be remembered that it’s universities that are banning the publication and the song. I love the reputation of university being a place of heated debate, activism, formation of ideas and opinions and discovering our own opinions on things. An environment that simply perceives something negative and puts on blinkers or earplugs to block it out instead of rising against it isn’t in line with that brilliant reputation universities have. So please, let’s take the blinkers off and the ear plugs out.

Instead of ‘rebranding’ feminism, ELLE should embrace feminism as we know it

Feminism, is often a subject that I feel that I need to tiptoe very carefully around. I am almost certain I do not stand alone on this front either. On the one hand I believe that it should be a given that a girl or a woman has feminist sympathies but on the other hand, I despise the stigma that comes along with calling myself a ‘feminist’ ..you know the usual stereotype of an angry, man-hating woman. So, after hearing that Elle magazine are launching a campaign to ‘rebrand’ feminism I thought, great! However, doubling back on this, I have to ask, is feminism something that actually needs rebranding after all?

Rebranding feminism and giving it a more attractive and appealing image seems extremely trivial in the face of the issues of equality that it stands for. Surely, softening up an image, that stands for a cause that, let’s face it, does not need softened, surely this will be harmful to the entire cause at large given that we do not live in an essentially equal society as of yet? It is naive to think that ‘rebranding’ feminism and making it more attractive to the nation, will immediately wipe out or even replace all preconceived stereotypes of man hating anger. If anything it will simply undermine the progress that has been made throughout the history of feminism. It is not something that can be given a makeover through a bit of a fleeting, weak and somewhat flat campaign of girl power.

Perhaps instead of attempting to give feminism a ‘rebranding’ Elle should celebrate and embrace feminism as we know it. Rebranding it recognises that we should pay heed to feminism’s stereotypes and allow them to shush us into submission. I have been told that the things that are worth doing are never going to be easy and if we look throughout the history of feminism, adversity has been there from the beginning – a ‘rebrand’ isn’t going to make this disappear. So, perhaps it should be realised that feminism is going to face adversity no matter what and that adversity should be taken in our stride because it is, in the long run, going toward the greater good of women’s rights. The stereotypes seem trivial at best when the very crux of feminism, women’s rights, is remembered as the very heart of what it stands for.

Sure it’s only banter: Has LAD culture gone too far?

Mention the word LAD to me and the only thing I can hear is the drunken shouts of “Yeoooooo” you are likely to hear on any given Saturday in Shaftesbury Square after midnight. The beer fuelled LADs on a conquest for sexual gratification and ‘banter’ has become a commonplace university culture across the UK. Fuelled by social media and thriving through the imperative to fit in, LAD culture is only recently beginning to be questioned. Facebook and Twitter pages such as UniLAD and HolylandLAD Stories regularly post stories of often humiliating and fleeting sexual experiences that typically treat females simply as objects of sexual conquest. These pages endeavour to create a sense of community that evolves around a damaging, sexist mentality. Presented on these social media pages simply as the source of easy, accessible sexual gratification it is no wonder that sexist attitudes towards females are being normalised in society. With this culture ever-growing, the eyes of the media are turning toward these worrying and disturbing trends of sexism. Why exactly is LAD culture being allowed to thrive like this?

Like wolves, LADs typically move in packs within nightclubs, on ‘the pull.’ It is often rare to find a LAD away from his peers unless of course he has managed to pull with the help of his fellow LADs. No doubt this analogy to wolves is one that LADs would take extreme pride in. As much as I agree that it is essential to stay within a group on nights out for mere safety, there have been countless occasions where I have passed a large group of males, perhaps heading on a night out, who feel it is perfectly okay to shout and jeer, be it seedy, humiliating, sexist or simply insulting things at me. Completely bereft of any sense of common decency and manners, this kind of careless and extremely disrespectful activity is common in nightclubs and being a part of a pack, the absolute sense of intimidation they induce ensures whoever has been heckled at remains silent. Moving in packs in this way provides LADs with an over inflated ego and damaging sense of confidence that moves them to shout out obscenities. This is often for ‘banter’ or to gain the respect from the group. However, if you passed a LAD walking the streets alone I can almost guarantee no heckling would occur. So, is this LAD behaviour all simply a big show off to gain respect from peers? If so, why exactly is undermining females perceived as a way to gain respect?

LADs may defend and rationalise their behaviour of undermining females as simply being a ‘joke’ however it is plain to see how these sexist ‘jokes’ are seeped into every day life and conversation especially with social media playing such a monumental part in people’s lives. When these sexist and undermining ‘jokes’ become a staple of every day conversation and discussion, a quality of someone’s mentality evident through their speech, these ‘jokes’ are likely to become ideals. I perceive the use of sexist ‘jokes’ in merely a simple discussion as a way in which they feel triumph can be sealed if a point is challenged. As much as I despise it when this happens, I still have yet to find a way to counteract it because of a reluctance to show that I have taken it seriously. Similarly, undermining females within a group, when a LAD can be absolutely certain he will not be challenged due to sheer intimidation from the group, it creates a false sense of pathetic triumph that therefore is worthy of respect within the LAD complex. These kinds of acts are completely petty and if we are accepting of it, then it makes it alright, we can be absolutely certain that it will not change, it may even grow worse.

As much as I berate people passively accepting sexist attitudes, I am as much an offender as anyone else simply because of the pressure of not only intimidation but also how people will perceive me for what would simply be standing up for myself. Even as I write this article I worry if I am once again taking the ‘joke’ too seriously. However, if these males who are subject to LAD culture are disrespectful enough to let sexist jokes slowly be phased into their own mentality and consequently society itself then I think I have every right to do what I can to actually stop it. I find it completely wrong and I know many other people that do too, ergo, why should we feel reluctant to challenge it? Stop stoically accepting overt sexism that is unashamedly and pathetically being normalised through the definition of a ‘joke’ or in the name of ‘banter.’