Too many students at university make a degree pointless

I once got booed at a National Union of Students conference for saying that more people at University is not a good thing.

Sadly every year more and more students who haven’t got the academic abilities to fully take on a degree will tarnish the validity of those who full embrace education and work for their results.

The more students at university, over 400,000 will go this September, then the more competition there will be in three years for jobs. While competition for jobs isn’t a bad thing, 400,000 people will graduate in 2016 and they will all have a degree level education and I guarantee that there will not be 400,000 graduate jobs available.

Most job applications I have filled out do not ask what classification I got in my degree, so effectively there will be 400,000 very similar looking CVs flooding the job market. This is of course excluding those who go to Oxford or Cambridge who will potentially get a free ride, depending on their contacts, whatever their degree classification.

University attendance costs, and I for one thinks that this is wrong. It should be free to all but only accessible to people who have B,B,B minimum at A-Level, a suitable portfolio for a creative course, or previous vocational qualifications or experience which means that a degree can help them develop a career that is already underway.

University was once for the economically elite but over the years we have, instead of making the playing field for university entry based on educational achievement, just let everyone in and thus have made having a master’s degree, which cost a lot and not many can afford, the minimum standard for people looking to enter the workplace.

This means that the upper middle/upper classes are once again sitting happily at the top of the pile paying for a master’s degree and doing free internships until they secure a full-time job.

The university systems pretty much universal acceptance (the clearing process) of people who apply to higher education institutions has created a new costly benchmark for graduate jobs at the bottom of the career ladder.

Having people with poor, or sometimes no, qualifications attending universities with low standards of teaching only dilutes what it means to have a degree. I think that is a crying shame because I loved university and I think it discredits the huge amount of people who have worked hard for many years to get there.

Pure and simply, places at universities should be given on the basis of achievement and ability, not on the ability to pay or a process where you can apply for empty places on random courses at universities that no one has ever heard of.

Just in case you’re wondering…I wouldn’t have got into university on my A-Level grades, but I did a creative course so may have done with a portfolio of work.

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12 Comments

  1. I think this is a bit of a narrow view. Whilst I agree that there are thousands of people going to university, and some for the wrong reasons, to suggest that only those with three B’s or above should be allowed to go sounds in itself elitist. I got a B, C, D at A Level. My D was in ICT – whilst I’d attained a solid top A (no A* in A Levels when I sat them) throughout my coursework, I just could not get my head around the exam style and so it pulled my mark down. I got a B in History and a C in English (my first year in A Level was poorer which pulled this grade down), whilst all my exams and coursework had been high in my second year. Needless to say I took a year out of school, worked a bit, went to a university to study History. I work part time and now I’m studying for an MA. I have been advised to pursue it as my writing style is almost publishable. Based on your opinion I should not have been allowed to go to university. Is that fair? I think many people will disagree with you. University is what you make of it. If you can afford to go, I think it is a fantastic opportunity and really helps many people stand on their own two feet.

    1. It should never be about cost though and opportunity shouldn’t be able to be bought. It should be instilled much earlier that education matters. Even as I approached GCSEs I was told that it didn’t matter as we’d all end up being shop workers anyway. I was lucky to do well and be encouraged but I was sad to see many not do as well but be told they were failures rather than be encouraged to go down different avenues.

      University is a great experience but it should be one for the academically gifted. Things should be hugely improved for those pursuing careers out those that would benefit from a higher education and if that happened, prospects for graduates would increase hugely.

  2. Whilst I appreciate your view, you haven’t addressed my point. Why should someone such as me, who excelled in my GCSEs, struggled in my first year of A Levels but pulled things up in my second, not get an opportunity at university? I applied so that I could better myself. By the end of university I acheived a very good 2:1 (with several 1st level assignments). Based on my skillset and my area of expertise I was encouraged by the Head of History to pursue an MA. He is my tutor and a great academic support. I hope to be working with him on my PhD. I’m not someone from an excellent background, my family was never well-off, and my schools were never excellent (I was let down by several tutors which heavily affected some of my marks). Am I not allowed to pursue an undergraduate degree?

    Thank you for your honesty in your post and reply. It’s very refreshing!

    1. The difficulty of creating, or in this case proposing, policy for the future is that exceptions to the rule -in this instance you- come forward.

      I know that my ‘rule’ wouldn’t be a perfect solution and many I know, including myself and you, would be been excluded because of it.

      That’s the tragedy of having to create policy for things, the fact that no matter how hard you try you can never give everyone what they deserve.

      The truthful honest answer and solution is that everyone should be given an individual assessment to see if they could go forward into higher education and if they can regardless of exam results they should be supported. If not then they should be supported in a different direction.

      Sadly we’ve not got the resources to do this.

      I just feel that everyone focussing on a degree as the be all and end all diminishes what can be achieved in other fields. I was talking from my experience as someone who went on a degree course with people who’d not got a GCSE between them.

      I just think that things like clearing gives an extra opportunity to people who may not have the right skills to go forward into university and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

      1. I see your point a bit clearer now. Maybe a system that looks at grades as very important, but also use interviews and the personal statement to a better effect. This could weed out the ones going to university who just don’t want to start working yet, and want to have three years made easy for them with student loans.

        I was accepted because my personal statement was very clear about my career aims (education), and they saw that passion along with historical knowledge. Luckily, most people on my course had some brains between them, and many had to pass the interview stage before they were accepted onto the course. I think it worked very well for my course at my uni, and it made for some interesting and controversial debates and discussions in our seminars.

        I don’t always think that A Levels are the be-all and end-all for university applications. I think they need well rounded applicants as well as those who simply excel in their marks.

      2. Life is sadly full of people full of academic prowess and no common sense and equally it has many with common sense and no academic inclination.

        There should absolutely be a more rounded application process and what I obviously didn’t make clear, and thank you for pointing it out, is that I was talking within the realms of what is economically achievable.

        I sometimes get disheartened working close enough to parliamentary process that I know what arguments aren’t worth having and so in this instance I chose not to suggest actual real assessment for all despite knowing that it would be the best way.

        I’m glad you’ve succeeded and nothing delights me more than being told I’m wrong by someone who has defied my viewpoint 🙂 thank you for taking the time to comment Becki. It’s not changed my mind but it has helped me make sure that future opinions are properly prefaced and it has also should me that part of my idealism has been worn away.

      3. It’s been nice to have a debate – I’ve missed it since my undergraduate studies ended. And I appreciate your viewpoint. That’s what I like about the university experience, you might never change someone’s opinion, but you can have a damn good try and at the end of it shake hands, and appreciate each others views. Thanks for the chat Dom.

      4. I do totally believe you’re right and that people like yourself, me, others…indeed everyone, should have the opportunity to be individually assessed. I was writing I suppose in the knowledge that we’ve gone too far in vilifying people who try to better themselves as a Government and so sadly individual assessments will never happen.

        Lets face it, look at the fuck up they’ve made with Atos and the disability assessments, maybe education is best left alone!

        You’re spot on though that debate stops when you leave education and that is sad. Nothing better than a debate, maybe except a debate over beers in a good bar…that’s what university offered better than post-graduation 🙂

  3. Interesting points. Even with all the expense etc etc there is something more to Uni than just the academic side of things. A period away from home, growing up, managing finances, relationships etc etc are all important

    1. But life experience can be gained by moving out, doing an apprenticeship etc…it doesn’t have to be gained at the expense of devaluing others degrees.

      I got as much out of that side of things, if not more, than I did my actual degree so I do see the point but I think we’ve gone too far the other way now and that’s why I think education becomes devalued.

      A degree shouldn’t be a three year gap before life, it should be the start of a positive step forward in life.

    1. Some are putting off work and some want a three year time out. That happens even if you’ve got the grades or go through clearing.

      It’s impossible to interview everyone everywhere and so that’s why I thought stricter academic boundaries may work

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