Education’s value to society is lost amid focus on graduate salaries
Paul Hewitson (Letters, 28 November) quotes Jack Britton, the author of an IFS report into graduate pay, who referred to “a large class of men doing courses that have a zero or negative monetary value”. How do we measure the value of a degree?
Is it solely and wholly on the basis of earnings? Presumably, then, a degree that leads to a career in teaching or nursing is worth only a fraction of a degree that leads into commercial law or corporate accountancy?
What about the value to society? What about the educational and intellectual value of a degree?
Judging the value of academic qualifications purely on the basis of subsequent earnings is typical of the philistinism that the current government and rightwing press promote, and which views universities as little more than educational supermarkets selling a packaged product to bargain-hunting student consumers; universities in which education is subordinated to providing the skills apparently demanded by big business. Pete Dorey Bath, Somerset
I was bemused by the article “LSE leads way for top earners before age 30…” (28 November). One of our children graduated from LSE with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At nearly 50, we still occasionally bail her out. Then the penny dropped; she went into the caring profession, where job fulfilment is assumed to compensate for a low salary. Christine Hawkes
Concern about the rise in unconditional offers from 3,000 in 2013 to 87,500 this year seems centred
on how “many students could be distracted from the final year of their schooling” and achieve lower A-level grades than expected (Unconditional offers made to third of university applicants, 29 November).
What the article failed to mention was the extra stress on A-level teachers, themselves set targets by senior management. Shouldn’t Ofsted be taking universities’ action into account when judging schools and their results? The education secretary’s concern should also be focused on how these offers are often made to students who drop out before completing their first year, but who nevertheless will have increased the greedy university’s revenue by £9,000. If Ucas can establish how many students with unconditional offers gained “A-levels two grades lower than predicted”, Damian Hinds can ascertain also how many failed to complete a single year of their course. Whether he would find it “disturbing” is a moot point, as many of these pupils were only taking A-levels because of government underfunding of more appropriate courses.
The simple solution is to ban such offers, which are simply the lazy way to get “bums on seats”, and insist universities make more effort to attract their students, with good teaching, sensible use of resources including the payment for vicechancellors, and prospectuses which detail all the measures taken to look after students’ health and welfare. Bernie Evans
The dysfunctional nature of our education system and the problematic nature of degree classifications were brought home to me 50 years ago when a friend was awarded a Cambridge first – one of the only three that year in the geography department – but was told by his tutor that it was “a poor first”! Presumably, given recent figures, there are now many more “poor firsts”, though hopefully students won’t get that kind of feedback (UK universities to hold inquiry into degree awards policies, theguardian.com, 28 November). Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria