Saturday, 21 August 2010

The University Issue

Now it's not like me really to spit the dummy out on this blog. It's not really what I set it up for, more a light hearted banter about all things parenty really....but today I'm making an exception as I have things I need to get off my chest....

This week, of course, has seen the annual A level results released. And, for a welcome change, the headlines haven't been screaming of how the results are better than last year, the year before that, the year before that and the last 22,456 years too, no doubt. But the alternative headlines I have actually find even more difficult to comprehend.......

'At least 200,000 students who have applied to University will not get in'

Erm, OK. Is it just me who doesn't see a problem with this? At what point is everyone who applies to University SUPPOSED to get in? It's supposed to be competitive......not a given that if you fancy having a go at higher education, then why not?

I was taught to look at courses from age 15 or so, decide what I wanted to do...make sure I chose the right subjects from GCSE level and then work bloody hard to make sure I got onto the course I wanted.... I honestly don't think I ever assumed I would go, I had to work for it. And I didn't just want to go to University for the sake of going....I wanted that course, that subject because I felt a real love and interest in my subject....and that was why I worked hard enough to ensure that I got onto my first choice. If I hadn't, yes there were fall back options but I would have been devastated. And so I worked. Hard. And I got through. But I was fully aware that if I hadn't worked I wouldn't have gone. End of.

It, quite frankly, dumbfounds me that it can be seen as a 'given' that if you apply for university you will get a my mind it should be over subscribed, that's what pushes you to work. It's like applying for a job, many applicants - ONE job. That's how it works, it's how it should work in my mind. Because that's what makes people really question what it is that they want to do. Without wanting to sound like a snob, though no real apologies if I do, university is not for everyone and it worries me that it is pushed down children's throats as if it is the only way forward. It isn't and in pushing so much we are increasing the numbers of students applying for second or third rate courses and, as a result, devaluing the worth of every degree and person who holds one. We are also costing the country nationally and as individual families a whole lot of money. And for what? To me, it just isn't the way forward. Let's stop force feeding university to people who, given a free choice, would rather do something else. Let people really find their own vocation, their own interests and their own strengths then give them support to use them and develop them for the good of the country and themselves and their families. Yes, we do need academics, of course we do, but we need a lot more to keep the country ticking over too.

OK rant over.....


Julie P said...

Do you feel better for that?! It's a sad fact that a lot of our young people won't make the grades or get into university despite their hard work - if they just haven't tried their best or have been lazy then I have little sympathy for them. But if they've worked hard and got the grades but still can't get into Uni I feel for them.

I didn't go to Uni straight from school/A levels as I didn't do A levels. I did a Btec then worked for a while. I then did my nurse training when I was 20. But I didn't do a degree until I was 27/28 and that was with the Open University. So not getting into University now, although I'm sure seems like the end of the world for some of these youngsters, doesn't have to be! They can find other ways of getting the qualifications/experience/work they want to do - go to Uni at a later date. But there simply aren't enough places to cater for the demand so people have to think about it and seek an alternative route or do something different. It's crazy and unfair but a sad fact of life.

I wouldn't like to be in their shoes again. At risk of sounding like an old biddy - it wasn't like it in my day!

Julie xx

Jayne said...

I understand, Julie and yes, I have every sympathy for those who work very hard and don't manage to get in. I'm guessing they love their subject and will continue to study it one way or another. Like you say, there are other ways than simply going to Uni at 18. It just staggered me that anyone would assume everyone got in! :)

Jayne x

Andrew Allison said...

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics; so the old adage goes. If we are to believe the official government statistics, students sitting GCSEs and 'A' Levels are getting more intelligent as every year passes by. Either that, or they are getting better at passing their courses. I say courses, because so much of the final mark in each subject is course based, and the overall grade is no longer dependent on how well you perform in the examination hall.

If these statistics were true, universities and employers would be telling us how great these students are; but they are not telling us that. We hear standards in English are falling; many are barely numerate; and top universities are increasingly having to rely on their own entrance papers, because, quite frankly, A Level grades are no longer worth the paper they are written on.

On the general subject of higher education, if I am ill, I want to see a doctor. Because of the complexity of medicine, a doctor will have received an extensive education and one hopes they will be highly trained and highly intelligent. If, however, I have water leaking in my house, I will call a plumber. Although a plumber is highly trained (at least I hope so), they do not need to go to university for their training. I still need a plumber though to cure the problems in my home. I don't need a doctor, chartered accountant, lawyer, journalist, or teacher.

Many children are being pushed in to higher education when clearly this is the wrong thing to do. You are right, there should be intense competition for university places. If there are too many degrees around (which I think there are), higher education is devalued. And yes, there are too many Mickey Mouse degrees and Mickey Mouse universities. This needs to be addressed; urgently.