A Crisis in British Education

I feel the need to lift the doom and gloom a little. While competition for places, and subsequently jobs, is intense I feel compelled to tell you VDOW that your concerns aren't new and have been experienced by many a student for many a year, myself included. I'm not trying to belittle your worries or condescend I'm just trying to say that you're certainly not alone in your concerns about debts, places or jobs at the end of your education.

Speaking from experience, I was able to get into a decent University (with reasonable, but not spectacular grades) and graduate with a (reasonable, not spectacular) degree at the other end. I immediately applied for jobs, no doubt the same jobs as all of my classmates, some of whom achieved amazing grades or had constructed impressive portfolios along the way. I had neither, and consequently I missed out on this first, confidence-boosting round of vacancies. Instead I ended up spending almost 3 years in a low-end research assistant's job (which believe me is an unnecessarily grand title for the actual role). However, while I was there I was constantly learning new skills, and the spare time it give me (it was hardly taxing) I invested in building up a portfolio as well as developing some software to make my current role even easier. Anyway, long story short, after two years I was able to apply for (and get) a development job of the sort I'd originally wanted. That was 6 years ago.

From the sound of things you're a lot more focussed than I was, so maybe you'll breeze through your course and breeze into a job at the other end, but rest assured that if you don't and things don't go they way you'd planned or expected, it's very literally not the end of the world. I know this sounds like poppycock when you're filling out UCAS forms and staring down the barrel of £xx,000 worth of post-Uni debt, but believe me it's true. A degree is nothing more that a piece of paper telling people that you went through 3-4 years worth of education to help prepare yourself for the career you wanted 3-4 years ago. It doesn't mean you're actually prepared for that career, or for that matter (and this happens a lot) that you actually even want that career any more. Really, when It comes to CVs and employers (speaking as someone who gets to interview people these days) we tend to look at academic qualifications as an indicator of the capacity to learn rather than an indicator of knowledge. We set some tests and talk to candidates to get a feel for the latter instead.

University's just a step, sometimes it's a stride and sometimes it's a stumble, but it's still just a step. And that may be the cheesiest sentence I've ever written.

I wish you well in your applications and the remainder of your A-levels.

Great post, FatConan.

The great lie of Higher Education is that it's job training for the future. This lie is mostly perpetuated to defend government policies of "User Pays" education - after all, if you're investing in your future career you really should pay the fees, right?

Fact of the matter is that with the exception of a applied sciences, higher education has little bearing on what you do with the rest of your life.

Your degree doesn't lock you in anything like how you think it may. You never stop learning. Willingness to keep learning and keep growing is the only true qualification.

Maq
BA (Pol Sci, Ind Rel)
Unix Systems Administrator
Studying Swedish
Applying for MSc (Psyc)

Maq wrote:

The great lie of Higher Education is that it's job training for the future. This lie is mostly perpetuated to defend government policies of "User Pays" education - after all, if you're investing in your future career you really should pay the fees, right?

Fact of the matter is that with the exception of a applied sciences, higher education has little bearing on what you do with the rest of your life.

Your degree doesn't lock you in anything like how you think it may. You never stop learning. Willingness to keep learning and keep growing is the only true qualification.

Maq
BA (Pol Sci, Ind Rel)
Unix Systems Administrator
Studying Swedish
Applying for MSc (Psyc)

Partly right, partly wrong. What HE does do is to give you a training in ancillary techniques (independent research and analysis, documentation and presentation of evidence etc) which during your degree is pointed towards the subject you are studying, but can be used in almost any profession. There are few educational opportunities to acquire that sort of education outside of HE.

Not that I'm attempting to defend the current position, or the steaming heap of **** that is the Browne Review. The reality from 2012-13 is that institutions will be charging home/EU students between 2 and 4 times what they are paying now. For that, they will receive no more tuition or facilities, because all their extra fees are doing is replacing central govt funding which will be removed from non-STEM subjects in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Welcome to American style universities, folks. Only problem is, that bar 2 or 3 universities over here, the scale of endowments to English HEIs is light years behind their US equivalents, so bursaries and scholarships are going to be like gold dust, only less common.

davet010
MA (History)
Senior university administrator
Currently studying...how to fill the funding gap without charging students 14k per annum.
Applying for - as many private sector jobs as possible.

Heh... If only they hadn't moved to a fEC (full economic costing) model and, at least in some universities, removed power and flexibility from individual institutions. Both of those resulted in a reduction in investment from the private sector and also a loss of income. It's also reduced the scope of research to what is given through research councils as opposed to having a balance between that and commercial interests. I'm guessing that most of the former business that came to universities has gone into spin-offs and start ups but unfortunately they don't provide students with more varied research options nor links with industry or help departments cover costs and upgrade equipment.

When i was doing my undergraduate, industry participation was rampant in Chemistry (my subject) and materials science.... by the time i got to my PhD that had all but disappeared in those two subject (unless you were doing biomedical research) because it was cheaper to do it elsewhere despite us having the expertise and huge amounts of very expensive, specialised equipment.

There's a real danger that the UK will become a third world sci/tech and educational country very quickly as we lose brain power and research and development capability....

One of the reasons why i couldn't get any job once i left uni and why i've emigrated. Still don't have a job (though fingers crossed) but there are more possibilities here because the wages are lower (though the standard of living is much cheaper) and it subsequently costs less to develop things here... not to mention there are loopholes around certain restrictive EU laws... even though this is an EU country.