Last week I travelled to Kingston-on-Thames to attend the graduation ceremony of my niece. It was a very proud moment because not only did it signal the end of years of hard studying by Samantha but she is the first member of my immediate family to attend university and walk off with an honours degree.
I, of course, have a degree from the University of Life. Sam, who in many ways is wiser than her years but still not wise enough, insists that this university is a figment of the imagination. It would be churlish of me to pick an argument with her at the moment of her triumph. However many sage readers will now the truth of what I claim, albeit I have to admit, few honours came my way.
Now graduation ceremonies are splendid affairs. Whilst Sam’s was not in a gilded hall of Oxbridge it was in the Rose Theatre – so for me with my close association with the dramatic arts it was a more than suitable stage.
As each graduate came forward from Kingston University's Arts and Social Sciences faculty there where loud claps or even cheers from the assembled friends and families. Yet whilst I looked on with pride in all the students’ achievements I also had a sense of depression and sadness.
The fact is that in 2008 in 45 British universities over one in 10 graduates were left jobless. Whilst some universities bucked that trend, notably in Scotland, others produced graduates with diplomas and student debts but no opportunity to take on the employment for which they studied.
Data from Hesa shows students found work in low-paid jobs working as bar staff, labourers, shelf stackers, parking attendants and cleaners. Samantha will join that number whilst she takes on voluntary work to gain experience working with the vulnerable victims of crime. That is right and proper but in the end we as a society must ensure there are the jobs to reward those years of study. True, universities have a responsibility to ensure degree courses are tailored to our jobs market otherwise we will be creating graduates whose ambitions can never be fulfilled.
We will be creating a generation of lost dreams – by degrees.
(Photo: Samantha (right) with a fellow graduate and their respective mothers. If in doubt I am on the right. Sharp eyed readers will notice I have a wine glass in my hand. In my defence I should point out that my Spanish doctor assures me that red wine is good for you. You will also notice that my glass is empty. From that draw what conclusions you will.)