A Facebook friend of mine posted this link earlier today; Durham Cathedral has been named the best building in Britain. I was, as a former Durhamite, extremely pleased to see this. Whilst in Durham, I had a strong connection with that Cathedral; it was one of my favourite Durham sites. So seeing this Guardian feature, it took my back to my University days. There are lows and highs to everything, but I loved my time at University: those crisp days out on the river; Sunday morning leisurely breakfasts followed by a productive work session whilst everyone else was asleep; being able to carry my life round in my Jansport rucksack; the view of the Cathedral from near Grey college whilst walking to the science site; afternoon tea with my friends.
It got me thinking about a BBC programme we watched last night, Up For Hire Live, a programme about tackling youth unemployment. With the recent rise in tuition fees, University kept coming-up and the number of people saying they would no longer go was quite high. The reasons expressed were not explicitly the tuition fees, but rather the jobs available after graduation. Quite a few people said that University gave you know real skills and benefits. This irritated me because I most certainly disagree. However, I do agree that degrees have become devalued, mainly because too many people have been encouraged to go to University, only to do mediocre degrees.
Now, that might sound rather harsh, but let me explain. I have a degree in Mathematics (European Studies). But, I didn’t leave University with ‘Number Theory’ and ‘Fluent in Spanish’ as my only skills, in fact, they were probably quite far down the list. Some of the main skills I gained at University were self-discipline, a logical approach to work and good time management to name but a few. For me, University was about developing my education and to gain independence. Of course there were the social aspects to it, but it was all about balance. For me and most of my friends, we took our degrees seriously. I think this is where we, as a country, are going wrong. With so many degrees available, students have been able to go to University with lower A-Levels. So, they went to fill the time, to delay the inevitable decision about what to do in life. To try and clarify what I mean by that, the skills you get at University and not just those that lecturers force down your throats on those hungover weekday mornings. It’s about the skills you learn to keep yourself in check and to drive yourself forward.
There is still, of course, the question about whether it is worth going to University. A 3 year degree at Durham will now set you back a cool 27 grand, plus accommodation, food and drinking money. But, in order to give the degree some value again, fewer people need to go to University. We should encourage those who have the academic potential to push themselves through University, supporting them as we can. Whilst those who find academia a burden or who struggle, can start to re-skill the UK. Well, that’s just my view.
On a side note, here is an awesome blog post about Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Rower. This is both another example of additional skills you can get at Uni and something I should perhaps take to my next performance review at work 😉