Friday, 15 May 2009

The pitfalls of jamming more kids into uni

Education, education, education - that's the modern mantra of the soft-in-the-head. Education is supposedly a magical panacea to all sorts of woes, from economic growth to income inequality and welfare dependency.

Funny how ever increasing numbers of uni graduates did not save us from a recession, isn't it? Isn't spending on universities supposed to act as a multiplier on economic growth?

In the UK, the Labor government set the absurd target of pushing 50% of school leavers into Uni. They've gone a long way towards meeting that target, mainly by fudging figures and dumbing down entrance requirements.

However, there is a downside to this that no one seems to mention.

A huge number of students are now quitting uni in their first year, and never going back.

How much money has been spent gearing the universities up for all those extra students, who fail to progress into the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of their degrees? How many extra buildings were built to accommodate a flood that turns into a trickle after a 6-8 month weeding process? How many extra administrators, lecturers, tutors and so on have been employed to cater for this horde, which evaporates as soon as it faces some serious study?

I am extremely sceptical of all attempts to force unnaturally large numbers of teenagers into uni. This is just one more way by which Gordon Brown exploded government spending to newfound heights, and another example of the profound wastefulness of tossing sacks of money at the pet projects of lefties.


VB said...

Here in France you can go to uni and undertake any course you want as long as you pass your 'Bac', or Year 12 equivalent. It matters not if you scrape by with 51% in everything or get 100% in everything, you can still sign up to do medicine, law, whetever. After the first year, though, there is a 'selection', basically the test that decides which of the first year students get to study the second and further years of the degree. You don't make the cut, you don't get to continue on and be a doctor, a lawyer or anything else.

Being France, though, you do get to take the first year again. Or change for a different first year of a different degree. From memory you have the chance to do either three or four 'first years', either all in the same subject ("one day I'll be a doctor...") or across whatever other degrees you try.

Oh, and did I mention that the university is "free": the students pay only a social security contribution of less than €200 a year while the working mugs pay for their repeated attempts to pass first year arts.

The end result is almost everyone gets the chance to go to uni and do whatever course they want (very egalitarian) but that the uninversities become jokes as they get filled year after year with people who shouldn't be there. So much a joke have they become that the only degrees worth getting from a public university here (the majority are public unis) are very technical degrees - medicine, vet sceince, denitistry - or a law degree. An engineering degree from a public uni is fairly useless and an arts/humanities/sociology degree even worse.

Of course, you can get a very good arts/humanities/sociology degree from a private uni where they make you take two years of advanced classes before you even have the chance to apply for entry but you pay big bucks for such places - and rightly so. They actually offer a world class education and the students who attend are actually motivated to pass, the money being shelled out by mum and dad being a rather good motivator in most cases.

It might be fantastically encouraging to have a system where almost every student can graduate high school and go on to study whetvere they like at uni. In reality, though, it means huge numbers of people who will never graduate clogging up the classrooms of students who actually want to be there, massive squandering of resources on students who will never graduate and the destructiion of the quality of the degrees you do end up handing out.

But, hey: we get to claim lower official youth unemployment, right?

daddy dave said...

The value of a university degree is eroding. Universities here and across the western world are pissing away their collective reputation by the relentless dumbing down of courses.

They've seen their best days.

Boy on a bike said...

I am so glad I attended when they were still vaguely "elitist". At least I got a proper education. Not like the poor bastards today. A bit of toilet paper from a degree mill.