Let’s get one thing straight about the Coalition’s hurry in taking the brakes off University Fees. It has less to do with the country’s mountain of debt and much more to do with the rapidly growing student population.
University used to be one of those words which was associated with clever people. Then we experienced the advent of large unemployment figures which seasonally self-adjusted upwards when the school year finished and tens of thousands of school leavers joined the back of the dole queue.
Politicians had a meeting and thought ” What if we keep these youngsters in education or training and hence off unemployment?” At the time, the idea must have seemed a jolly clever wheeze. The resultant plan was Baldricesqe in its cunning: Allow every crap institution which houses anything to do with teaching to become a university, fill it with morons and you immediately remove the mid-summer unemployment “blip” plus, you postpone these special-needs-academics’ membership of the Unemployed Club.
Then you just sit back, dish out worthless degree certificates, continue to hire immigrants for the REAL jobs and “Bob’s your father’s brother”. You have a pseudo-egalitarian education system whereby every thick pikey with a pad of paper can wear the old mortar board and Harry Potter cloak as he fills out his Jobseekers Allowance form – three years after he should have done. What could possibly go wrong?
What was wrong was that too many wide-eyed hopefuls were hitting the university trail producing too many degrees without additional jobs having been created. All that the three-year postponement of unemployment achieved was that individuals bagan to collect their various allowances at age 22 instead of 18.
A university degree has now lost its kudos – unless it is from Oxbridge. Don’t believe me? Walk into any London restaurant and ask any waiter who isn’t Polish whether he or she has a degree. Try the same exercise at a Tesco or Asda checkout.
10% of graduates are still unemployed six months after graduating. That is the highest proportion for 17 years, which coincidentally is when New Labour came to power. There has also been a very marked increase in graduates taking jobs which do not require a degree. That has simply meant that they have placed themselves at a three or four-year disadvantage on the career ladder compared to those who began work immediately after leaving school.
A recent survey of 225,000 graduates has shown that rising numbers are taking jobs that do not require degrees, including as waiters and checkout workers.
The previous highest percentage of unemployed graduates was in 1992 when the number was 11.6%. At that time, the United Kingdom was approaching the end of the previous recession – which was nowhere as serious as the current economic situation.
Currently, only about 65% of graduates who are in-work achieve a degree-level job (as defined by the government) and the biggest “growth” area for university leavers is the retail and catering sector with ONE IN SEVEN graduates (15%) starting their careers within that industry.
Fine Art graduates have the lowest initial income (£15,000) which is £5000 below the average. The highest starting salaries are among students who studied Chinese. The future.
Over the last two years, it is the Public Sector which has continued to recruit a disproportionate number of graduates. That does not bode well for the future as it is this sector which will see the most savage jobs cuts. Degrees with a “Social Studies” or Healthcare-related bias have seen the largest graduate intakes in the Public Sector, although even those have only risen by 0.5% in the last year.
Contrary to popular opinion, IT-related graduates have fared the worst with over 17% still being unemployed six months after graduation. That is even higher than the ubiquitous Media Studies graduates who managed a comparatively decent 15% unemployment rate after six months. The rest are probably flipping burgers.
12% of engineers remain unemployed after six months whereas the more generalist subjects such as Geography and Psychology produced the highest graduate employment rates with only about 7.5% being unemployed after six months. However, many of those are working in non-degree-specific jobs.
It has been claimed by a UCU (University and College Union) spokesman that an uncertain job market and higher fees could “turn talented people away from university”.
That, theoretically, should be a good argument for not transferring any more of the cost of a degree to students. However, instead of the government paying the price for policies which have totally devalued a university degree, it is applying a uniform solution to our current economic chaos.
It is asking future generations to fund the mistakes of successive inept administrations.
Finally, there has been a lot of Ministerial talk on the subject of entrepreneurship and “stimulating young budding entrepreneurs”. I have some bad news. The Brits make lousy entrepreneurs.
Why? Because they do not have that “merchant” mentality. We are indeed a nation of shopkeepers, advisors, accountants and civil servants. That’s what we’re good at. We’re good at telling others what to do and at measuring things.
Here’s an extract of the top names from Britain’s latest Rich List:
Lakshmi Mittal, Roman Abramovich, The Duke of Westminster, Sri and Gopi Hinduja, Alisher Usmanov, Ernesto Bertarelli, Hans Rausing, John Fredriksen, Philip Green, David and Simon Reuben, Leonard Bravatnik, Sean Quinn, Charlene and Michel de Carvalho, Kirsten and Jorn Rausing, Samy and Eyal Ofer, Vladimir Kim, Earl Cadogan and Family, Nicky Oppenheimer, Joe Lewis, Sir Richard Branson, David Khalili, Lev Leviev, Anil Agarwal.
Notice anything about the nature of the names?
If you want to be successful, forget university. Either inherit large tracts of London and if that doesn’t work, become either Jewish, Russian or Indian. It is the dealmakers who shall inherit the Earth.
Most of the world’s great entrepreneurs did not attend university – they were too busy making money. Unfortunately, we in the UK still suffer from our own special brand of intellectual snobbery whereby a university lecturer on £30k per year will look-down on a barrow-boy from Essex with £10 million in the bin – on the basis that he’s thick and cannot distinguish between a Chardonnay and a Blue Nun.
Our problem is that we care more about appearances that we do about money and we like letters after our name. Paradoxically though, if someone hands us a business card with “BSc(Hons)” after their name or worse still “MBA”, we think that they are a jerk-off. We are a complicated people.
Britain’s (degree-free) working class parents dream of their Wayne or Waynetta attending university and “becoming someone” through the magic medium of a degree. “Get some QUALEEFEECATIONS behind you.” is the working class Mantra. Notice that it is “qualifications” and not education. Often we sacrifice the latter for the former.
It doesn’t happen, folks. In the United Kingdom, it is class and contacts that matter – alternatively, you need the credibility of a foreign name.
The university “thing” has been the biggest-ever con of the last twenty years and it continues to be so.
This time though, the government’s actions are driven by the very real need to reduce the number of university places so that a degree reverts to being a privilege for the very very clever poor, the very clever rich and the quite clever very rich . The government doesn’t really want our money, it needs to close those ridiculous pretend universities with the Mickey Mouse degrees.
If the Browne (another cunning disguise?) review which recommended the lifting of the current tuition fee ceiling has the effect of drastically cutting our graduate intake, it will be the best thing that happened to this country for a generation. On this occasion, support your government – and don’t go to university. Start to make your fortune three years earlier!
All those Aarons, Benjamins, Jacobs, Lakshans, Ashoks, Gregoris and Nikolais can also have an early start towards that first million.
If you think about it, when Nick “Tough Choices” Clegg, our Deputy Prime Minister changed his mind about University Fees, he wasn’t being a duplicitous spineless bastard.
He did our future economy a very big favour!