It is often discussed among employers and business leaders alike about the existing gap between what students learn at universities and what they are actually expected to know and handle in order to be ready to perform at a good level. This issue has become especially alarming given the fact that the numbers of people graduating — and it is still growing — from university: over 40% in countries that are part of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and close to 50% in the United States.
It has become clear that even though there higher education has become a more premium feature in today’s society a recent study done The Economist has unravelled that the return on investment (ROI) of a university degree has never been higher for graduates, thus it can be concluded that the value added from a university degree diminishes as the number of graduates continuously rises.
For example, in the area of sub-saharan Africa, where degrees are comparatively rare, a university degree will boost salaries by over 20%, which, by contrast, in the Nordic Countries earnings are boosted by only 9%, where 40% of adults have degrees. Furthermore, as more and more people obtain university qualifications they have become the norm and recruiters and employers will demand them more and more, disregarding the simple fact that they are required for a specific job. It can be concluded that even though degrees can lead to higher earnings, the same employers are damaging the graduates’ mindset and themselves by limiting the candidate strictly to university degree holders. In this modern age of technological advancements and such a constant flow of information, it is difficult to demonstrate that the acquisition of knowledge historically associated to a degree is still relevant in this day and age.
In the meantime, companies are becoming more observant to what they are required to offer in order to attract and retain their best employees, those employees who have a high potential in order to keep their companies competitive and with an extremely agile workforce.
There is a debate amongst people that universities prepare young people from a social point of view. Whilst university, people have the chance to learn how to deal with different types of people and personalities helping them develop in a more complex manner. This can happen due to a couple of reasons:
- No more direct involvement from parents
- Young people learn to adapt, they mature mentally, slowly becoming more independent and learn to take care of themselves.
However, the aforementioned arguments do not stand as firmly as one might think. Normally, people attend university from 18 to 22 or 23 years old. In those years, students start to mature naturally due to the simple fact that they are aging. Furthermore, people tend to learn a lot at work by engaging in various work-related activities. Nobody is denying the fact that young adults mature during their university years, but they could do so by being out into the real world, independent from university. Perhaps, the process of maturing would have been greatly accelerated.
It must be taken into account as well; the ever-rising costs of university fees and not everybody could have had access to a higher education, prior to just a few years ago. Nowadays, there are a lot of free online courses which are available to the general public which can level the playing field when it comes to getting a higher paying job. However, it must be taken into consideration that recruiters and employers alike have not started warming up to the idea of online-educated people being ready to enter the workforce.
Whichever way you wish to look at things, the university learning system is simply not scalable, it is not possible. Some universities have more financial resources to help educate their students; some universities have better professors who offer a very unique style of information and the absorption of it; plus there is the other end of the spectre where you have poorly financed universities and professors who have lost their motivation to teach, to educate the young and fairly impressionable minds they have in their class. This leads to digital learning, which, for better or worse, can be scaled to some extent. It is available to everyone; there are no hidden side notes or comments that can sway the mind to go in one direction or the other, so we have to ask ourselves, how we measure the purposefulness and route through which we obtain knowledge.
This is not to say that institutionalised education is fruitless. It does offer people the chance to expand their intellectual selves, develop new skills, and discover things, people or places otherwise hardly talked about.
Whether people like it or not, profits are the main concern of almost every business in the world. Capitalism, for all its benefits, has its flaws and this is one of them. Universities themselves have begun their hunt for profits and the interest of the student has become secondary. These institutions also view their graduates’ futures quite differently from what is happening today in the world. Universities are preparing students not so much for their jobs in their respective industries but more in the area of future drastic changes, changes that may happen decades from now. Due to this type of preparation it has caused a lot of disruption in today’s workforce, given the fact that graduates not only opt to change employers but also careers entirely.
Graduates nowadays have a tendency to seek options left and right, leading to a lot of movement in the job market either being from a larger to a smaller company or vice versa, non-profit and profit, completely different industries altogether. This current generation of young adults don’t even like the word ‘career’ because it simply implies commitment to just one path for the rest of their lives. There are a lot of things universities can be better at and, to be fair, introspection does not sound that dreadful.
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