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Why Red Brick Universities Must Adapt or Die September 26, 2006

Posted by el fuser in Education.

I had put alot of thought into what degree I wated to take. It all went out the window though, when I failed to get into the course doing Politics & Philosophy. In hindsight I would have hated it, but in my panic on clearing day I ended up picking something that proved to be equally unsuitable. My criteria, as I’m sure it is for many Grammar School kids, was that I wanted to be at a ‘proper’ university. I felt that the weight of the name alone would get me where I wanted to be. Big mistake.
I look at my girlfriend’s degree at what I used to dismissively consider a ‘polytechnic’ with envy. They may not have Oxford educated lecturers, but they damn well make sure that you’re qualified and experienced enough that when you leave, you get a job. You’re technically proficient in a variety of fields and you’ve had a year in industry to prove yourself . I on the other hand struggle to ‘prove’ my skills outside of academia and lack proper experience. Who do you think an employer will pick?
Today, most of us see university as a necessary step towards a good job. Sooner or later, we will realise that subjects that don’t have an identifiable skills set attached to them (so called ‘soft’ subjects) arn’t cutting the mustard. History graduates might have slaved away for three years to obtain their first. Ahh, says the employer, but have you proof of any skills that will contribute to our organsation?
Sadly, we could see several subjects dying out because of this. University used to be a place where the elite went to improve their knowledge – choosing their degree basesd on personal preference. Now the product that the unis’ offer offer is outdated and inconsistent with their students’ needs. One potential short term solution is to force students to take modules in business concepts or other vocational skills. However I believe that as students become more and more picky about what they get into debt for, a complete overhall of the system will be necessary.