Should You Go to University?

‘But, my master’s degree makes me knowledgable’

The Assumption of Knowledge

Imagine this, you have a deep interest in trains. So, you spend all of your free time researching and learning about trains. You do this to such an extent that you could state the make, model and year of manufacture of any train you see, much to the amazement (or bewilderment) of your friends.

Then, you bump into someone with a degree in trains. You tell them that you like trains and they respond ‘ah yes, I have a degree in that, what do you want to know?’. Now, there is every possibility that you know far more about trains than this person. And yet, they assume they know more about trains than you simply because they have a piece of paper that says they do.

Of course, statistically speaking, if you have a degree in something, you most likely know more about your subject than the average Joe. But, I think that in today’s society, we are plagued by the idea that in order to become an expert in a particular subject, you have to go to university and study for a degree to do it. Therefore, if someone claims that they know about something, that claim is only valid if they have a degree. However, do the greats of the UK economy, James Dyson, Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, among others have shiny business management degrees? No, they are just very good at business. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say that a business management graduate knows more about business management than they do.

The point is, you don’t need to go to university to learn something. Especially in today’s day and age, where most of human knowledge can be found online for free. This, I think, is highlighted by Elon Musk’s rather forward thinking policy that you don’t need a college degree to work at Tesla.

Double Edged Swords

So then, why is going to university so common? Why do so many Job adverts require you to have a degree? Universities, at least in the UK, are primarily businesses, and the students are the clients. It is in a university’s interest to get as many students through their doors as possible. But, as highlighted by my post ‘Some People Are Stupid‘, not everyone is intelligent enough to study for highly employable degrees, such as medicine. The response to this by universities is to allow you to do a degree in almost anything, so anyone can go to university. This, for me, is part of the problem.

I have the rather controversial opinion that not everyone should be able to go to university. A degree is supposed to be a prestigious achievement. If everyone has a degree, regardless of if they actually worked hard to get it, it diminishes that prestige. Nowadays, having a degree is just a certification that you can get out of bed in the morning and do what needs to be done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have any particular expertise.

But, in an increasingly interconnected society, universities have a place. They give you access to resources you wouldn’t otherwise have, and there’s the whole ‘student experience’ thing (which, to be honest, should not be a consideration involved with an educational institution. But that’s a whole other topic). There are certain specialised degrees, such as medicine, where you do need some sort of certification to say that you’re not going to put people in harms way.

So, should you go to university? Well, as seems to be a common theme on this blog, it depends. Not all degrees are created equal, and not all degrees will boost your salary. During my university days, I had many an argument with people trying to claim that their degree in fine art should have the same level of importance as my degree in physics. Maybe you think that should be the case. But, in my view, going to university is a huge expense if you are not going to get any sort of financial return from it. Does me having a physics degree mean that I know more physics than you? No. But it is a lot easier for me to boast knowledge of physics on paper without having to rely on industry experience. And unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, that is often important in job interviews.

Students tend to moan quite a lot about how universities are so expensive. But what they don’t realise is that they are part of the problem. Universities are able to charge so much because people pay it (well, somebody does – but that isn’t what’s being discussed here). However, because they are doing a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree, they never actually earn enough money to pay back their tuition fee loans, and so tuition fees go up. Of course, this is an incredibly simplified view of tuition fees. And I don’t know anywhere near enough about it to provide any sort of solution to the problems the system in the UK has. Having said that, there is no point complaining about high tuition fees after you have paid them, in order to do a degree that doesn’t provide you with any extra employability. So, before you get swept up by promises of 3 years of fun and endless job opportunities, just to get a piece of paper out at the end that says you know a lot about David Beckham (Yes, this is an actual degree). Think to yourself: will your degree actually benefit you? Because, if the answer to that question is no, then all you will get out of your university education (at least academically) is some mega debt that will most likely end up as the burden of the British taxpayer.

Well, with that rather cynical rant coming to an end, as always, and until next time, I thank you for the read.

Cam.

Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

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