The decision to undertake a degree is always one that is backed up by an internal cost benefit analysis of the individuals facing a strategic choice in life. The decision is one that is personal to many different students and some may argue that going to university is, or has been, a good business decision, whilst other may argue it is not.The relationship between work and higher education is complex and is constantly changing as a consequence of changing assumptions, values and expectations of students, graduates, employers, academics, politicians and civil servants. As a result of recent changes the growing acceptance of the concept of a learning society; the pervasive idea that learning in the classroom is of greater value than learning in the workplace is now being challenged.Employers seek flexible, fast, learning adaptive workers and reward education because such traits are associated with higher education levels. But many graduates are realising that their B.A. and B.Sc. degrees qualify them for no particular profession-unless of course they drift into teaching- prefer to stay on for further degrees in the hope of becoming research assistant’s and eventually being appointed academic staff which is a long process. Some graduates have realised that they have to settle for humbler jobs than they have been led to expect- the kind of jobs, moreover, for which the higher education they have received must seem to have been largely irrelevant, if not a waste of time, this has put the question forward: is pursuing a degree a good business decision
It is easy to forget that until quite recent times training for some professions- law, accountancy, as well as engineering- was undertaken almost entirely on practical work based lines without a formal degree qualification being necessary.Learning on the job had the advantage of being founded on first-hand experience, an advantage that is retained in the polytechnics’ sandwich courses; the disadvantage was that it was slow.
As the necessity for a through grounding in theoretical principles increased, however membership of professional institutes could only be gained by passing a written examination and, before long a three-four year university course provided the most suitable short cut for students exempting them from the hard graft of a long-drawn-out article apprenticeship.As late as 1970, however, individuals wishing to become solicitors were advised that while a degree was an asset it could not be accepted as total exemption from apprenticeship as an article clerk, and in the immediate post-war years that a BSc. (engineering) was no substitute. But the advance of the credentials system was implacable. The world over, universities took over the responsibility for professional training and in so doing became the main agencies for professional job allocation. Everywhere the belief that people who credited with having received more’ education’ usually earned higher incomes and higher status than those who had less, provided the mainspring for expansionist policies. In the U.K these policies were a less explosive than in a country on rapid modernization like Japan, which had one university in 1890, forty-seven in 1918, 379 in 1969 and 685 in 1976.
From an early age children have been conditioned to believe that their entire future depends upon paper qualifications that they can only obtain through formal schooling, ‘Everyone must go to College’ ‘Education pays- stay in School’- these are the kinds of slogans constantly publicised in the U.S.A where currently more than half the pupils completing high school go on to some kind of full-time course of higher education, but recently more plainly, the promise of social justice, supposedly inherent in the concept of ‘constant mobility’, has proven to be delusive, by encouraging the youth to climb higher and higher up the educational ladder of prospects it has lulled them into imagining not only that there is room at the top but room for nearly everyone.Times have changed as one “In 1944 the problem was to convince more pupils that they were capable of getting a degree- and more parents that they could afford to let their children go to university- the problem now it can be said is to ‘cool out’ the masses who take it as a matter of course that a higher education owes them a living”.
A new national survey of young adults ages 18 to 25 finds that the vast majority of today’s young adults — be they African American, Hipic or Latino, Asian American or White -strongly believe in the value of higher education. The survey, “High School: young people talk about their hopes and prospects was conducted by the non-profit, non-partisan opinio2n research organization public agenda – the majority of the young adults surveyed said that their parents inspired the goal of going to college and most had a teacher in high school who took a strong personal interest in them and encouraged them to go on to college. Money plays a big role in decisions about where — or whether — to go to college or university. Nearly half of young people who do not continue their education after high school cite lack of money, the wish to earn money or having other responsibilities as reasons why they don’t go. “Life after High School” also shows that while money is not a factor in college selection for most young White Americans (60 percent), it is for most young African Americans and Hipics. Sixty percent of both groups say that they would have attended a different college if money were not an issue. About half (51 percent) of young Asian Americans say this as well. The survey raises troubling concerns about the prospects for young workers without university degrees. Compared to those who have a two- or four-year degree, these less-educated workers fell into their jobs more by chance than by choice and far fewer think of their job as a career. Young people with no degree are substantially less likely than those who have a degree to say their parents urged them to go to college.
There has been much discussion, now with increasing support from government, employers and academia for the idea that learning does, and should, continue after formal education stops. One of the many important changes in the size and shape of higher education during the last few years that have taken place are for example, the number of degrees awarded over the years has steadily increased, twenty years ago just one young person in eight entered higher education today more than one in three do so, over the same period the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in Britain has risen. In 2009/10 there were 350,860 first degree graduates compared to 333,720 in 2008/09, showing an increase of 5%.
This does not mean that the quality of a degree is necessarily any the less but it does signify a university degree is no longer as distinguishing a qualification as it once was.Nevertheless, the economy has in addition moved on and the demand for graduates has grown at the same time as the supply has increased.
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