Why the University of Life is the best training
WHEN my friend announced that she was okay with her clever daughter not going to college, the collective smiles of her companions collapsed in horrified disbelief. ‘If I had told them I was giving my house to Father Peter McVerry and moving into a mobile home they could not have been more shocked,’ she said. ‘It was like I’d lost my mind.’
Mentally my friend is firing on all cylinders but, as a graduate of the Eighties when a university degree had more cachet than today, she knows a bit of what really goes on within the hallowed halls of academe.
Ideally she’d like her daughter to go to college but the girl has no interest in further study and my friend has even less in shelling out thousands of euro for her to enjoy the social side of college life.
‘I’d prefer to give her the cash to set up a little business or travel the world,’ she explained.
This attitude may be unusual but as the bill for third level spirals thanks to soaring tuition and accommodation costs, it may become more prevalent.
Faced with the noose of a lifelong student loan, a university education may start seeming like too much trouble for too little reward.
Also the more Millennials that follow the herd to Trinity or Letterkenny IT, the more the lustre fades.
MORE significant, however, than cost or loss of éclat in the decline of the public’s slavish devotion to third-level education may be the changing nature of work and the death of the idea of a ‘job for life’. In the brave new world that awaits us where work will become radically redefined and, according to some pundits, eventually redundant, workers may need to be armed with something other than a cum laude degree. Education may no longer be the great equaliser or guarantee of upward mobility.
Entrepreneurial flair, sales ability and thinking outside the proverbial box may be the skills that open the doors of opportunity. The genius of the Apple gadgets was their design originality not their technical wizardry.
It is likely that the next revolution will be propelled by a similar mindset – one that cannot be taught on a university campus but can be encouraged in many walks of life.
There are signs already of creative industries like publishing, wakening up to the limitations of a degree.
Penguin has stopped asking for a degree as an entry-level requirement, while EY (formerly Ernst & Young) in the UK has changed its recruitment process, so that a 2:1 degree or A-level grades are no longer required.
Employers are beginning to realise that intelligent and capable people come from all sorts of backgrounds and that we don’t all have to go to university to learn.
Of course, there are careers where specialist knowledge is essential – translators must have language fluency, scientific research needs well trained graduates.
But there are far more young people studying half-heartedly for degrees that have no bearing on either their personal or professional interests than there are students taking courses they’ve had their hearts set on since forever.
THE top-ranking schools in the league tables often show 100% progression rates to university. This is the gold standard – the goal to which all schools should strive. But tables can’t tell us how many students are in college, simply because they have nowhere better to go.
The school leaver who can imagine possibilities other than the welltrodden path to university may not be left in the wilderness.
Not if independent thinkers and innovators become the new elite and employers want them on their staff, rather than overeducated clones.