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.