Thursday, January 28, 2010


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.)


Tony Murphy said...

Recent studies have shown that many students who graduate with a degree will only earn marginally more than than those without one, obviously depending on the subject.
When I had achieved my degree in architecture one of tutors was really encouraging me to go on and do a masters.I having been a penniless student for many years was keen to get out and start making some money.My dilemma was resolved by the dean,to whom I went for advice.He said "Your qualification gets you your first job.After that it's your experience that gets you any other job" Good advice,which I took.
However these days in the UK you can get a degree in watching television or eating junk food or getting drunk -otherwise known as "social studies".And don't worry the government will create a job especially for those with these valuable qualifications.An amazing job I recently saw advertised was for a "FIVE A DAY CO-ORDINATOR" who would be paid 48,000 per year.The primary responsibility of this post is to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. - True rocket science.

Prospero said...

As yet another graduate of the University of Life, with no honours whatever, I have to say that I have come to regret not taking the opportunities I had to go on to University. Not for the piece of paper you get, but for the discipline of study, the knowledge you acquire and the techniques with which to find the information one needs.

Of course, it was different back then; there was no Internet or computers or anything like the facilities students have today.

I miss, in other words, the effect achievement has on the psyche.
But then, they didn't offer degrees in potty training in those days either. And a job was something you got and kept because you had achieved something for your employer and were thus a valued part of the enterprise.

Plus ça change...

CraftyPip said...

It is believed today , that because someone has an education and achieved a certificate or diploma, students of any age should have the automatic right to high flying job careers.
Educational standards change from generation to generation and it is tailored to the needs of the era.
I must admit that with all the achievements in social studies, I am at a loss as to why there are so many social problems !!!!!!!. So lost are some of our skills and new ones take their place. Many say that this is a dumbing down of the educational system and that that the process of learning is far too easy, but who is to be the judge of what is difficult or easy? We probably can all remember those who found education a doddle and those who struggled to achieve at all.
The certificates and diplomas only serve as a guide to potential employers of the level of education and dedication that a person is prepared to undertake to persue a goal.
A person´s future depends on more than one factor, whether it is ability, personality, environment, connections, inheritance, luck, ingenuity, self determination or just plain hard graft.
Ultimately those who want a prosperous future do not stand around idly for the world to owe them their existence.