Author’s note: recent newspaper articles on this topic killed the media technique analytical satirist in Stuart and brought the cold bitter wanker who’s completely intolerant of other people’s opinions back to the surface. And if you think I’m wrong and don’t happen to have been a university student at some point in the last five years, I have more reason to be right on this than you do, fair?
Okay Metro (and any other newspapers and grown up people listening) we need to talk about university. Specifically we need to talk about what people with absolutely no fucking authority to talk on the subject think of university. No this isn’t going to be one of those fun entries because now we’re on the subject of people talking about my generation like we aren’t able to pick up a newspaper and read it.
I’ve done opinions on other people’s opinions before but this letters page is a massive example of people offering uninformed opinions because the paper has told them what to think. The idea that this degree is worthless in the real world or this other degree is meaningless and university is a bloated waste and you should do vocational courses is an idea perpetuated by the media. It’s unfathomable to me why no one can see it and just regurgitate such massively stupid opinions because the journalists that told them to think this way couldn’t be fucked to do any sort of research.
The perceived worthlessness of the degree goes back to the creation of the phrase “Mickey Mouse degree” as in referring to the media studies or arts degrees with no perceived real world value was invented by the papers several years ago and people’s parents just rolled with it. Do you seriously not see what they’ve done here? What’s so illogical about studying how to get into a profession that’s notorious for being really hard to get into? That’s the one question you need to ask before you brush off a media or an arts degree as meaningless in the real world. The media perpetuates the idea degrees are meaningless because it’s an exclusionary industry. If someone younger and more energetic and talented comes along then their job’s in jeopardy. Discouraging education on how to break into it is in the media’s interest.
University is meant to be about studying something you love. Parents and the media are always banging on about how nobody goes into the sciences anymore but if you don’t really like something that much then what’s the point in doing it? You’ll spend three years studying something you find boring, end up a scientist and find it boring and end up spending the rest of your life staring into the flames of the Bunsen burner wondering whether you should drink the sulphuric acid or melt your face off as a means of escaping the drudgery of an existence you find boring. Even so there are hundreds of people up and down the country with supposedly the worthwhile degrees working in petrol stations and supermarkets. Meaningless or not a degree choice should be based on what you want to do, not what other people think is a waste of time or not.
As for the whole “we should make young people more aware of alternatives to university” The problem with this statement that has somehow been used fifty billion times in the last week alone is it’s said by people from the time before every bastard had a degree. I’m sorry but if you didn’t graduate within the last decade, the world has moved on without you and its time you faced that. It’s not that the degree’s value depreciates because everyone has one so much so its become a requirement for a decent job (which it has) it’s that it offers a jumping on point for what you want to do and shows to an employer you care about something enough to spend three years doing it. Fine, a degree isn’t for everyone and not everyone has the aptitude for it and someone’s got to work in Asda but the argument put forth that some degrees are worthless and lots of young people shouldn’t be doing it really gets to me because people are talking about students rather than to them. The reason studies have shown prospective students aren’t sure about the degrees is because people endlessly talk about how useless they are nowadays and not listening to what the prospective student wants to do.
Speaking as someone who has been through university in the last few years I have more reason to offer an opinion on the current state of the system I can say this: it’s not the degree that’s worthless. I have a creative writing degree, one of the supposed Mickey Mouse degrees and now I’m currently working your bog standard graduate job on your bog standard graduate salary in a company with absolutely no relevance to my degree. What my degree did was give me opportunities to gain skills in other areas and become more independent, I did student radio, I went on to do volunteer work. The problem wasn’t the degree; it was the careers guidance.
All they fucking do is offer you a website link and a piece of paper that says the word CV and a load of buzzwords on it and tell you to get an internship. They don’t actually offer any firm advice on creating your own experience, becoming self-reliant and actually growing up. The market is oversaturated with graduates with useless degrees and nothing else, true, but the reason these people are not getting jobs is they think the qualifications are enough when they’re just one part of it. Every site I have looked at, every lecture on it I was given, I am fully convinced that absolutely no one working in the field of careers guidance knows what they’re talking about. What an employer wants is someone who is passionate about something and uses their time on this planet to invest in it. They’re going to have to see this new recruit round the office every day, might as well get someone interesting to talk to. On CV writing, no one gives a shit you worked in a shop for two years, no one cares about your grades, they are important as it indicates how well you grasp hard work, but the reasons graduates aren’t getting jobs is we’re being told to give up on our dreams because they aren’t realistic. Your hobby isn’t worthwhile, bollocks if you care about something enough to work on it in your spare time, isn’t that a good thing? A part time job and a bunch of pieces of paper with letters and numbers on them don’t make a person an interesting employee, what they want is to see that you don’t need to be told to do something constructive.
Look at this for example from the Student Room, the UK’s biggest student info website. Its one of those articles you’re meant to accept at face value because these people should know what they’re talking about. They also should know how to tailor an article to an audience and if your site name is “THE STUDENT ROOM” this article really shouldn’t be the most prominent one when you click on “HOW THE CRAP DO I GET A JOB AFTER UNI”? I have no idea who the hell this is tailored to but it certainly isn’t graduates as it assumes students haven’t just got out of full time education with no experience five seconds ago. I’ve included annotations anyone with two brain cells could spot. (click it to see full size)
Degrees and qualifications are not the issue. Its the careers guidance industry really not understanding that people in the working world are people, they are the same species. Students: don’t be afraid of employers, they are people, and put as much work into your hobbies as possible and they will see you for who you are. Making your own experience is possible, you don’t need to spend four weeklong internships making coffee around an office to do an office job, the only reason those exist at all is companies can’t be arsed to pay people, its not constructive. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t otherwise you’ll just end up working some bollocks job you hate and end up topping yourself by your late thirties. Have hopes and interests.
And papers and parents of students be them prospective, current or graduate: stop telling people to give up on their dreams, you are depressing young people, ruining their lives and you’re doing nothing but making them more and more miserable and demotivated. Employers like people with hopes and dreams, they won’t employ a broken spirit. Unless you can empathise with them and offer support, the employment market is just going to keep getting worse and you’re just exacerbating it by talking about us like we’re not listening. Its not wrapping us in cotton wool, it is kicking us when we’re down and at our most vulnerable. There’s a word we used to use for that: bullying. Stop telling young people what they should be doing, treat them like the grown ups they are supposed to be becoming.