Is university enough?

Although university is often described as the best time of your life -which seems pretty depressing if good times should only last three or four years- the main reason why people still bother, is the prospect ofsomeday getting a job.

©Wikimedia Commons; Image credit: Mando

After the rise in tuition fees, it has been strongly defended that university was stillworth it and that current loans and investments will one day be paid back. So as the price of university has raised so have our expectations: we all, somewhere buried inside, believe or hope that a York degree is going to give us a job.

But what if it is just not enough? What if university does not sufficiently prepare us for the prospect of employment? What if university was just not worth it anymore?

As much as I will never regret going to university, I believe that some of the higher education propaganda needs to be reviewed. The answer to the question is that university is NOT enough in providing high employability. Tuition fees are the price of a university experience and a degree but it certainly does not buy the queue jump for a successful career.

Most of us will be in, or will have already been through, the eternal process of applying for internships or work experience. Although a degree still seems quite important to have on a CV, work experience is now simply essential. Those two weeks spent in a Law firm, that month in a Lab or that summer with a publishing team may be what truly matters.

Of course a degree will give you some theoretical/academic knowledge, critical and analytical skills and a good practice of time management but again, there are very little fields in which the latter seems enough.

Arguably, this situation is utterly legitimate and private initiative should be rewarded with an improved employment prospect. However, echoes of social inequalities hinder the accessibility to internships and thus constrain employment prospect.

The choice/possibility of work experience does not come about without consequences: time spent in unpaid experience positions means less time devoted to paid work and can rapidly turn into an impossible dilemma in which experience leading to pasta-and-pesto-survival-meals.

Another trendy line to put on a CV is the amount of time spent abroad, either studying or travelling. How wonderful to be able to go off and see the world, live the risky life and come back more mature than you were when you left. Yet again such experiences have a cost which will put off some of us under the discriminatory basis of wealth.

All in all, I’m certainly not attacking possibilities of internships and travels abroad, and I have been lucky to be able to do so myself. Yet, in the end, the point is neither university nor determination alone are sufficient to offer a good job prospect. It is most known that there is no such thing as meritocracy; however, maintaining the illusion that this might be the case is an institutionalised lie.

University is definitely a springboard for future life plans and teach some of the most valuable skills to understand the world. However, where it is incapable to offer some of the necessary experiences required by the current job market, wealth takes over.

The lure which is put forwards by higher education institutions in which university fills the gap between the most well-off and the others is more than ever undermined by the need to go and look beyond our degree for employment assets. University is enough in teaching a working method and fostering a critical opinion yet it does not provide the key to stand out on the job market.

Published on The Yorker on January 21, 2013 


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