If Oppenheimer thought that the whole world is going to hell, then the cover of this week issue of The Economist certainly implies an alternative view.
Debating whether going to university is worth the opportunity cost or measuring the positive impact on a country’s GDP prospects seems as bizarre as a company wondering what the purpose of training its people is if they are eventually going to leave. If a firm can afford investment in education, can a state disregard investing in it? Is ignorance considered a virtue?
The ‘too many graduates for our job market’ argument has been on-going in the press for a while, with a number of spectators applauding any voice raised that 50 years ago only 10% of the population were university alumni, as if that’s something to be celebrated. In the same school of thought, 100 years ago studying beyond Year 6 was rare and often seen as unnecessary.
While being strong supporters of Widening Participation, we cannot deny the existence of alternative routes to a successful life career, whether that is through entrepreneurial endeavours, vocational and online training or apprenticeships. At the same time, increasing the number of people in Higher Education is and should be the right path towards a more socially balanced, curious, mature and critically thinking society.
We passionately disagree with the myopic suggestion that the only purpose of Higher Education is to secure, ensure or solidify one’s job opportunities in the labour market. That’s all up to the individual’s effort and own capabilities. Stone, red brick or mortar and click, universities have a much more versatile, resourceful and omnipresent function and many of these institutions succeed in their purpose, i.e. developing potential, equipping individuals with life skills and broadening knowledge and perspectives. Yes, it comes at a price but what is the alternative?
With all our respect to The Economist and its simplifications of reality, something not unheard for someone sharing the same occupation, a declaration that these tuition fee grabbing educational establishments should finally make sure ‘students learn the right stuff’, makes us slightly apprehensive.
Perhaps Oppenheimer was right.
Suits and Books. Our pleasure.