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This is a question Protest!

Sit-ins. Walk-outs. Smashing up the headquarters of a major political party. Chaining yourself to the railings outside your local sweet shop because they changed Marathons to Snickers. How have you stuck it to The Man?

(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 12:24)
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Fuck the students, fund apprenticeships!
Little sister is at UCL, starting medicine. she was at those student demos, and watched as masked chaps from the socialist workers party turned up and proceeded to cause violence at Millbank.
It once again made me think of one of my pet annoyances, at which point I may sound a bit old and crusty. I'm actually 21.

I'm just coming to the end of a machinist apprenticeship. I've always loved engineering, so after doing A levels I decided I'd rather do this than go to uni. I was utterly fed up of learning, and didn't fancy the debts. Probably the best decision I ever made-I have a tidy sum saved up, a few old bikes to play with and regularly sit on my balcony eating a croissant.

Being in employment, I see a fair chunk of my salary disappear in tax. When you see it on your payslip, you tend to take more interest in how it is spent. Which is where the students come in...
Our education system is geared toward putting people through uni. Problem is, a lot of people aren't really uni material. They might not know what they want to do yet, or not have the academic ability. (The latter is by no means an insult, I work with loads of people who could never learn advanced maths/another language/ancient history, but give them some metal and a lathe, a file, a welder-practical ability like you wouldn't believe). Anyway, there are now a massive amount of former polytechnics catering for such people-courses with laughably low entry requirements, silly subjects or poor job prospects (I believe media studies graduates have a dreadful time getting a job, even with a decent degree). Added to this, uni is often seen as one massive party, learning being a minor inconvenience. Such as the girl I knew from school I met a few months back. "I'm going to study blah blah blah, whatever that is!"
Do I want to fund those students? Do I fuck! I don't mind funding engineers, doctors and people who, whatever their subject, have a genuine ability and love of it. I understand that helping such people means they get better jobs, and hence pay more tax etc, which is great. Unfortunately they seem to be treated the same as those who just want 3 years of alcohol and little to worry about. Don't even try and tell me a minimum pass in english studies will help anyone do anything.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 13:43, 28 replies)

(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 13:47, closed)
Hahahaha the middle classes
Anyone who's parents weren't on the game for their entire childhood is middle class and should be shot.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 14:07, closed)
i went to Uni (self funded) and now work at a Uni - maybe it will make UK students take their studies more seriously.

We have yanks at ours doing 1st year med degrees - they pay £60,000 for the priviledge....
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 13:48, closed)
(, Mon 15 Nov 2010, 16:51, closed)
The issue being, of course
Separating the engineers, doctors, and people who, whatever their subject, have a genuine ability and love of it from those who just want 3 years of alcohol and little to worry about.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 14:06, closed)
If you find me an engineer or a doctor that didn't piss it up for three years.
and i'll find you a fucking liar.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 15:58, closed)
Please allow me to introduce my friend Dr. Abdullah...
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 16:08, closed)
I pissed it up for four years, as that was the length of the apprenticeship.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 16:36, closed)
I'm not sure who's worse, engineers or rugby players.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 18:04, closed)

How about rugby-playing engineers? That would be me...

I can honestly say that I did not piss it up for three years. I did, once exams were complete at the end of each year, drink like a fish for a week or so, but then it was out to work for the summer (because although I had a small grant, I had no contribution from anyone else and had to work my knackers off.)

I'm not complaining. It wasn't quite the college experience I would have wanted, but at 50 I'm retired, so it wasn't too bad.
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 0:35, closed)
I do see your point
but I think a lot of students know that, and it's part of what causes the anger.

I think the problem is that expanding higher education has meant more and more employers insisting on people having degrees, whether they're needed or not. As a result, if you want an office job nowadays, you realistically do need a degree (in pretty much whatever) with most employers. This causes a vicious circle as an increasing number of people get themselves into debt getting qualifications which they don't especially care for and which don't really drastically improve their career prospects, as everyone's got one - it ends up just helping them to get into jobs they would have got into without degrees if there hadn't been a massive expansion in higher education in the first place.

This is why the economics of charging for degrees becomes pretty questionable: the theory is that you should pay because it will improve your job prospects. Really? I think most degrees won't help that much as more and more people have similar qualifications. We're telling kids they need to go off and get a qualification, and that they have to pay for it because it's going to improve their prospects so much that they will reap all the benefits. I don't think many of them really will.

The difference with something like apprenticeships is pretty clear - if you get a qualification it normally leads directly to a job you will use the skills in and which you wouldn't have got into without the training. We should definitely treat apprenticeships and technical qualifications as being as important to the country's future as degrees - probably more important when they're in professions where there's a shortage of qualified people.

Anyway, back to my thesis on the implications of Lady Gaga for post-modern Feminist theory...
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 14:10, closed)
I'm doing an English degree...
..and I think the arts get an unfair kicking in all this. Sure, most of us will graduate and get non-related jobs (which as Snowy points out, mostly require degrees now). But who wants an entirely utilitarian society, where the only degree you can take if daddy isn't rich are those deemed 'socially useful' - medicine, law, teaching, engineering, science? That's no more study into history, archaeology, politics, the wealth of amazing literature and art produced by diverse cultures over thousands of years... sounds pretty awful to me. The generation who studied this stuff for free dies, and then what? What do we lose?

There should be more funding for apprenticeships, definitely, but it's not a zero-sum game between you and us, apprentices and students - there should just be more funding for all education, full stop.

Which is pretty much what we were saying at Millbank yesterday...
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 17:52, closed)
Well said
Signed Snowy (MA Hons, English Language & Literature)
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 18:21, closed)
That's what you were saying?
All I heard was "Hulk smash"!
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 18:32, closed)
Never said it was them and us
I repeat: I'm quite happy to fund people doing a degree they have a genuine talent for and love of the subject. Such people generally get good results, and benefit from the qualification.
The arts, media subjects etc seem to be seen as easy by some people, who pick a degree to avoid effort. I know an english graduate who can't spell (not dyslexic either). Which is pretty shit for people who want to do art/language/etc because they are blindingly good at it (e.g. mate of mine did archeology and anthropology at Oxford) . I admit that as a hairy arsed engineer I can't see the use of such degrees, but I am willing to believe there is a use-if you are good at it.

I agree in theory that education needs more funding, however that rather misses the whole reason for the cuts. There isn't any money. However, the cuts should be handled better, perhaps by weeding out lower quality degrees and the unis that seem to exist purely to pay senior management handsomely.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 23:43, closed)
I think that's it, really. It comes down to a value judgment on what should be funded and what shouldn't, but I think you and I agree that that isn't clear-cut and isn't necessarily about what you study but about the quality of the course, and your ability to take something from it.

Basically, I'd rather less places for degrees than a system where a dodgy degree is a given if you can afford it, which is where we're heading.
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 0:03, closed)
I like those folk who bleat on about higher education being their "right".
It's not a right - it's an expensive indulgence. Since selection by ability has taken a back seat to selection by neighbourhood, the vast majority of degrees in this country have little if any practical value in the workplace, and are little more than an official confirmation that you've had a certain level of upbringing, you hold certain values and you're politically OK.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 19:39, closed)

If selection by ability has taken a back seat, why do a third of applicants end up with no acceptances?

Try doing a UCAS application. I dare you
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 21:25, closed)
Bad luck.
And as I successfully completed one back in 2003 and went through the system afterwards there's not much point doing it again.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 21:34, closed)

Do another one. Go on. It's banter. You get to write 45 lines about how awesome you are. And be proven wrong that uni places are easy to get, of course
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 14:57, closed)
I totally agree with this
Only a relatively small fraction of the population are sufficiently academically gifted to study for a 'proper' degree. By that, I mean a subject which requires degree level training, such as medicine, law or science, in order to practice the profession. The majority of other jobs would be better served by vocational training.

We need scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers etc. We also need joiners, plumbers, nurses, people to fill holes in the road and plough our fields. But the latter group don't necessarily need a degree in order to become expert at their jobs - in fact, it may just be a waste of their time to do so.

But as the OP has said, the way of the world now is that it's seen as the done thing to go to university, which means (because you can't make people academically clever) that universities have lowered entrance standards and made degrees easier. And this has devalued the whole system.
(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 21:52, closed)
You can actually make people academically cleverer.
Happens all the time in schools. Well, I say all the time... I'm actually in favour of 100% of people going to university*, but that's because I believe in a kind of Star Trek future. What I don't believe in is setting arbitrary targets for university attendance and then expecting school standards to meet them. Sort out secondary education first, and then expand university provision.

(, Thu 11 Nov 2010, 22:09, closed)
I don't believe you can make people cleverer than they are
Although of course it is possible to stretch someone to the best of their ability, and this should be encouraged. Preferably playing on people's strengths. If someone's good with his hands, and interested in carpentry, but is not very bright, why should he go to university? Instead, why not give him vocational training to be the best carpenter around?
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 9:56, closed)

I believe that in some European countries (France? Belgium? Dunno) pretty much anyone can get in to uni, but can only stay if they pass the exams. Sounds fairer to me - the not-very-bright woodworking genius can choose to have a go if he think he's got the potential, and might surprise us all...
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 14:59, closed)
The problem with that
(in France) is that you lose the sense of personal tuition, and a lot of money gets wasted on students who'll drop out after one year (and the rate is over 50% at some universities). It also reinforces the dual university-grandes écoles system, whereby the privileged get excellent education and the less well-off go to overcrowded unis.

My point wasn't that I believe everyone now should go to uni. Clearly it won't benefit some people, and it's wrong to give the impression that it's the only acceptable path. But if pre-university education gets substantially better, then I can foresee much higher rates of university attendance.

There'll always be differences in intellectual capacity, sure, but why do the majority of Oxbridge students come from private schools? Quality of education, not innate ability.
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 15:27, closed)
I leave school next year...
And I'm fucking sick of people asking me "So, what are you going to study at uni then?"
To which I invariably reply:
"Actually I'm thinking of joining the Navy to do mechanical engineering."
My step mother was not chuffed when I dropped THAT bomb shell on her. Neither her, nor either of my real parents have been to university. Only my mother actually has a degree.
They say, "Oh, but we want the best for you..."
Which translates as: " I really just want to be able to brag to all my friends "Yes, my eldest is doing [course name goes here.] at [uni name goes here.], and they're going to be a doctor/lawyer/astro-physicist."
Hypocrites, I think, is the most apt description.


Thought for the next two seconds: There will always be those who design bridges, and those who have to build them. That's [partially] why the White Army lost the Russian Revolution; they had too many commanders (I.E. people with degrees now-a-days) and not enough line troops (I.E. those without.). Not everyone needs a degree: after all, what point is there in having one if everyone else has one?
(, Fri 12 Nov 2010, 22:08, closed)
I did a levels at welbeck
Nearly got funded through uni by the army, but realised it wasn't for me. at 21 I'm a qualified machinist, have 4 classic bikes on the road and half a deposit for a house saved up. Oh, and a job. If your parents are that desperate for you to go, they can pay!
In your case, joining the navy is a pretty cool, and hard, thing to do. why they wouldn't be pleased is beyond me.

Reason I mention welbeck is that I have experienced the vast difference between state and (sort of) private/selecting schools. Secondary school was one long nightmare of being sat in classrooms that resembled a zoo on crystal meth. Even as someone who could do the work, I was bored. College was incredible-people who were interested, motivated and as a consequence we had some of the best teachers I have ever had. Not just the teaching, but we could have a laugh with them too. I was very lucky to go, and it saddens me that state schools cannot be anywhere near as good. Dad tried teaching for a bit, so I know a little of the crap that goes on behind the scenes there.
(, Mon 15 Nov 2010, 23:14, closed)
You understand that (I believe media studies graduates have a dreadful time getting a job, even with a decent degree)
That'll be because we're turning out more of the useless twunts with piss easy degrees in meeja studies than there are FULL TIME JOBS in the media in the UK!

They deserve to pay 30k a year ... arsewipes
(, Sat 13 Nov 2010, 13:55, closed)

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