Mickey Mouse Degrees.

#1
Boris Johnson Linky
From todays Telegraph:

OK then, let's have a good snigger. Let's all look at the list of these so-called degrees, and sneer at the pathetic delusions of the students who are taking them. In the saloon bars of England, it is by now a settled conviction that the university system is riddled with a kind of intellectual dry rot, and it is called the Mickey Mouse degree.

Up and down the country - so we are told - there are hundreds of thousands of dur-brained kids sitting for three years in an alcoholic or cannabis-fuelled stupor while theoretically attending a former technical college that is so pretentious as to call itself a university.

After three years of taxpayer-funded debauch, these young people will graduate, and then the poor saps will enter the workplace with an academic qualification that is about as valuable as membership of the Desperate Dan Pie Eaters' Club, and about as intellectually distinguished as a third-place rosette in a terrier show. It is called a Degree, and in the view of saloon bar man, it is a con, a scam, and a disgrace.
advertisement

Kids these days! says our man with the pint of Stella, slapping The Daily Telegraph on the bar. Look at the rubbish they study! 'Ere, he says, finding an account of the recent investigation by the Taxpayers' Alliance, which has compiled a list of the 401 "non-courses" being offered by our universities.

In a satirically portentous tone he reads out the brochure of Marjon College in Plymouth, which really is offering a three-year BA (Hons) degree in Outdoor Adventure With Philosophy.

Yes, he says with incredulous sarcasm, the dons at Marjon College give instruction in the ancient discipline of Outdoor Adventure by examining its "underpinning philosophy, historical antecedents, significant influences, environmental and sustainable aspects and current trends"; and just in case you thought that wasn't quite rigorous enough, they guarantee that "the modules will include elements such as journeys, environmental management, creative indoor study and spirituality".

Absurd! cries saloon bar man, and then jabs his finger at yet greater absurdities: a course at the University of Glamorgan in "Science: Fiction and Culture"; and get this - the Welsh College of Horticulture is offering anyone with four Cs at GCSE the chance to study for an Honours degree in "Equestrian Psychology"! It's a degree in horse whispering! he says. It's bonkers.

Why, he asks rhetorically, are we paying for students to waste their time on these Mickey Mouse courses, when it is perfectly obvious what they should be doing. Trades! Skills! Craft! This country doesn't need more bleeding degrees in media studies and whispering into horses' ears! What we need is people who can fix my septic tank! We need more plumbers," he raves, and it's not just because he resents paying so much for his Polish plumber; it's because the whole university business is - in his view - such a cruel deception on so many young people. They rack up an average of £13,000 of debt for some noddy qualification, when they would have been far better off getting stuck into a job after leaving school and engaging in an old-fashioned apprenticeship.

That's what he thinks; and that, I bet, is not a million miles from the view of many eminent readers.

And yet I have to say that this view of higher education - pandemic in Middle Britain - is hypocritical, patronising and wrong. I say boo to the Taxpayers' Alliance, and up with Mickey Mouse courses, and here's why.

The saloon bar view is hypocritical, in the sense that it is always worth interrogating the saloon bar critics about their aspirations for their own children or grandchildren. Would they like them to have degrees? Or would they like them to have some kind of explicitly vocational training?

It is notable how often a critic of university expansion is still keen for his or her own children to go there, while a vocational qualification is viewed as an excellent option for someone else's children.

It is patronising, in that you really can't tell, just by reading a course title, whether it is any good or not, and whether it will be of any intellectual or financial benefit to the student.

The other day my normally humane and reasonable colleague Andrew O'Hagan paraded the idea of a degree in "Artificial Intelligence", as though it were intrinsically risible, and for 20 years we have all been scoffing at degrees in "media studies".

But AI is one of the most potentially interesting growth areas in computer science; and the truth about Media Studies is that its graduates have very high rates of employment and remuneration.

Of course there are mistakes, and of course there are a great many students who drop out, get depressed, or feel they have done the wrong thing with their lives.

But the final judge of the value of a degree is the market, and in spite of all the expansion it is still the case that university graduates have a big salary premium over non-graduates. The market is working more efficiently now that students have a direct financial stake in the matter, a financial risk, and an incentive not to waste their time on a course that no employer will value.

It is ridiculous for these saloon-bar critics to denounce "Mickey Mouse" degrees, and say that the students would be better off doing vocational courses - when the whole point is that these degrees are very largely vocational.

We can laugh at degrees in Aromatherapy and Equine Science, but they are just as vocational as degrees in Law or Medicine, except that they are tailored to the enormous expansion of the service economy.

It is rubbish to claim that these odd-sounding courses are somehow devaluing the Great British Degree. Everyone knows that a First Class degree in Physics from Cambridge is not the same as a First in Equine Management from the University of Lincoln, and the real scandal is that they both cost the student the same.

There again, who is to say where a Mickey Mouse course may lead?

The last time I looked, Disney had revenues of 33 billion dollars a year - and if any university offered a course in the Life and Works of Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't blame them in the least.
# Boris Johnson is MP for Henley
 
#2
Scary how many kids graduate with useless (ie. unemployable) degrees... BA in liberal arts equates to a waste of tuition funds here in the states unless you are sending your child to college specifically to find a spouse.
 
#3
Many of the girls in the call centre at work have degrees. I know one with a philosophy degree, one with a "singing" degree and another with a degree in archeology.

When I was at school, a decent number of people left at age 16 and got jobs or apprenticeships. They became your factory workers and plumbers. Many stayed on and went to college. They became low-level office workers or went into technical trades. A handful went to university, and they became executives and started businesses.

Obviously this is very general, but in my mind, that's more or less how the system worked. Now that almost every single young person goes all the way to uni, has anything actually been achieved?
 
#4
RFUK said:
Many of the girls in the call centre at work have degrees. I know one with a philosophy degree, one with a "singing" degree and another with a degree in archeology.

When I was at school, a decent number of people left at age 16 and got jobs or apprenticeships. They became your factory workers and plumbers. Many stayed on and went to college. They became low-level office workers or went into technical trades. A handful went to university, and they became executives and started businesses.

Obviously this is very general, but in my mind, that's more or less how the system worked. Now that almost every single young person goes all the way to uni, has anything actually been achieved?
No.......apart from huge amounts of valuable resource wasted on intellectual sludge, and an increasing proportion of disillusioned 'graduates' who wonder why they are earning much less than the debts they 'graduated' with.
 
#5
Highly educated gas station attendents is what has been achieved... the bar for entry into business has been raised considerably here. Jobs which used to only require a high school diploma now require an associates degree and so on.
 
#6
The problem with Plymouth's College of St Mark and St John (Marjons) is not the subject but the execrable quality of instruction. It doesn't matter what degree you study, the college is sh1t.

I remember when I was filling my UCAS application that Bournemouth Unversity was running a course on Footwear Fashion in the 1980s for which you didn't even need A Levels - you merely undertook an extra year of study at the university!
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#7
Khyros said:
Highly educated gas station attendents is what has been achieved... the bar for entry into business has been raised considerably here. Jobs which used to only require a high school diploma now require an associates degree and so on.
I met this bar whilst working for PB an American firm, I was the only candidate with the skills and experience and willing to take the job on. They employed me through another consultancy so I wouldnt appear on their books without the magical MBA in business bollock spiel. Problem is more eejits have these courses so you get six sigma now. A course that teaches you to think out different solutions? I thought you only needed different solutions if your boss was too thick to accept that you knew the right way to do it!
Countless progress reports, funny charts and endless bluff and bull which in the end stops you ever achieving completion of the job or triples its cost. Thank you!
 
#8
But then again, what about the number of mature students who have gained from going to university, who didn't take A levels, etc?

This morning, for instance - a graduate mature student was being interviewed on the radio, because she was leaving for Australia tomorrow, before starting a expedition in the Antarctic.

I have heard of countless similar stories of people doing well, because access to higher education has been increased.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#9
I agree with mature students getting better access, in fact on leaving the mob youshould be offered further education supported as a means of resettlement. It doesnt need much and would be a good way for those of us who joined at 16 to feel appreciated now we are mature enough to knuckle down and study!
 
#10
RFUK said:
Many of the girls in the call centre at work have degrees. I know one with a philosophy degree, one with a "singing" degree and another with a degree in archeology.

When I was at school, a decent number of people left at age 16 and got jobs or apprenticeships. They became your factory workers and plumbers. Many stayed on and went to college. They became low-level office workers or went into technical trades. A handful went to university, and they became executives and started businesses.

Obviously this is very general, but in my mind, that's more or less how the system worked. Now that almost every single young person goes all the way to uni, has anything actually been achieved?
I understand your point but the place I work now has completely replaced the ratio of graduate engineers and manufacturing staff, so we need may more graduates than we do apprentice fitters etc. Much of industry has changed, the ammount of floor space for production ahs fallen and the engineering offices and laboratories has grown dramatically.
 
#11
Khyros said:
Highly educated gas station attendents is what has been achieved... the bar for entry into business has been raised considerably here. Jobs which used to only require a high school diploma now require an associates degree and so on.
One of the problems is that many students are actually doing degrees where either there is a gross over supply of graduates already or even worse with no consideration of what work they actually want to do when they graduate. I would put a lot of blame on the advice from schools where all to often teachers promote their own pet subject rather than something practical for the student. Both my sons were subject to such pressure but rsisted and one is now an engineering manager and the other is a university researcher/lecturer in practical hydrodynamics
 
#12
ugly said:
I agree with mature students getting better access, in fact on leaving the mob youshould be offered further education supported as a means of resettlement. It doesnt need much and would be a good way for those of us who joined at 16 to feel appreciated now we are mature enough to knuckle down and study!
I fell into that category leaving at 16 and entering training the week after sitting my last CSE exam. 25 years latter I am having my photo taken on graduation at University of Huddersfield. My aim now is not to pay back my student loan.
 
#13
maxi_77 said:
Khyros said:
Highly educated gas station attendents is what has been achieved... the bar for entry into business has been raised considerably here. Jobs which used to only require a high school diploma now require an associates degree and so on.
One of the problems is that many students are actually doing degrees where either there is a gross over supply of graduates already or even worse with no consideration of what work they actually want to do when they graduate. I would put a lot of blame on the advice from schools where all to often teachers promote their own pet subject rather than something practical for the student. Both my sons were subject to such pressure but rsisted and one is now an engineering manager and the other is a university researcher/lecturer in practical hydrodynamics
Agreed... IT workers are a dime a dozen now. Heck, plumbers are one of the highest paid professions here! :D
 
#14
Khyros said:
maxi_77 said:
Khyros said:
Highly educated gas station attendents is what has been achieved... the bar for entry into business has been raised considerably here. Jobs which used to only require a high school diploma now require an associates degree and so on.
One of the problems is that many students are actually doing degrees where either there is a gross over supply of graduates already or even worse with no consideration of what work they actually want to do when they graduate. I would put a lot of blame on the advice from schools where all to often teachers promote their own pet subject rather than something practical for the student. Both my sons were subject to such pressure but rsisted and one is now an engineering manager and the other is a university researcher/lecturer in practical hydrodynamics
Agreed... IT workers are a dime a dozen now. Heck, plumbers are one of the highest paid professions here! :D
We dont employ IT people, we contract that out but we do employ a lot of high quality engineers. The IT thing is all down to the imperfections of the market, first there was a shortage so many people trained and at the same time technology improved so now we have too many, they same will probably happen to plumbers. Wont worry me though, I do my own plumbing usually.
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#15
Walk into Waterstones Bookshop and shout "Hands up everybody with a degree". Pretty well all the staff. Then try "Hands up everyone with an MA?" There will be a couple. All on minimum wage.

Its parent pressure as much as anything. "My girl is off to St. Andrews" trumps "My lad is doing a Technical Apprenticeship". Although the apprentice will be earning £25k by age 23, no student debt and the opportunity to get paid to go to Uni later.
 
#16
TheIronDuke said:
Walk into Waterstones Bookshop and shout "Hands up everybody with a degree". Pretty well all the staff. Then try "Hands up everyone with an MA?" There will be a couple. All on minimum wage.

Its parent pressure as much as anything. "My girl is off to St. Andrews" trumps "My lad is doing a Technical Apprenticeship". Although the apprentice will be earning £25k by age 23, no student debt and the opportunity to get paid to go to Uni later.
Mind you in the days of 'real' bookshops having a degree was a requirement for most staff, they were expected to understand the subjects they dealt with, but now they are just retail outlets.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#17
I am concerned that my lad will spend up to 3 years at a vocational college and come away with nothing more than a job in a travel agency!
 
#18
The massive expansion of higher education in recent years has more to do with 'parking' a large number of unemployed youth adn increasing a largely Labour-vioting constituency of academics, university staff and associated hangers-on.

Anyone with even 'O' level (sorry, showing my age there, GCSE) Economics could tell you that, if you increase the supply or a commodity, the price of that commodity goes down. Same with widgets and graduates.

All that's really happening (and this happened in the US long since) is that to be the equivalent of a Batchelor 10 or 20 years ago you need to have at least a Masters now.
 
#19
I think one of the other problems is students not taking the time to educate in otherways whilst at university.

Most students don't understand, that to get anywhere you have to back up the degree with experience - getting involved in voluntary work, etc.

If they just spent three years getting pissed, then they probably will end up in a non-grad job.
 
#20
in my experience those with degrees who are working in low paid jobs is not the norm - the adage "the more you learn the more you earn" is true. Of course there are exceptions, but in my office (artchitectural practice with 50+ architects) all of the management have Masters, all of the staff have degrees and all of the admin staff must have diplomas to be able to keep up with the staff. The pay is very good all round and there are opertunities to become partners in the firm.

Generally, it is good for the country as a whole that its populace is highly educated, it stops a lot of the bigotry and ignorance that leads to civil strife and unrest - just look at the ignorance in the Middle East where religeous fanatics easily whip up support from the locals because they haven't got the brains to think for themselves
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top