Why University Is Failing the Next Generation



‘Special session for Graduates helping you understand your options after University’

Great, I thought, this should be interesting.  I wonder what options they are going to suggest.  Of course, graduate schemes and paid internships will be on the list.  What about entrepreneurship?  Starting your own business online?  Tips on how to shadow intern for someone you admire?

Of course there was none of that.  It was the same old same old.  This graduate scheme, this job in administration.  I wasn’t really disappointed though – it’s what I’d come to expect.

Returning to University I wasn’t expecting them to spoon feed me.  My previous experiences had shown me that I had to be in charge of my life – or external circumstances would take over.  I was still disappointed though in the lack of preparation University gives you for TODAY’S world.  University might be good for how it was 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s certainly not appropriate for today.

We were all there.  We all saw what happened.  2008 the whole world collapsed.  Economic and financial structures that had lasted for decades were brought to their knees.  University was a large part of that system.  You get a degree, you get a decent paying job (most of the time doing something you don’t like), you get a house and a lot of other debt and then you retire.  Simples.  Well no more.  Those jobs are gone and they’re not coming back.  Middle managers are being replaced by technology.  So are administrators.  Of course many jobs are vital and will never go, but even in those jobs there needs to be adjustment for the new economy.

Now you have to be creating.  An article, a video, a business, a sculpture or anything.  You have to be making something happen.  Everyone has a degree so how will you differentiate yourself?  How can a company even see your passion and what you’re about?  When you create you don’t even need to rely on getting a job.  If it comes great, if not then you can just spend time on creating.

I had to learn these things for myself.  From reading, learning and experiencing.  In my first year I just did the normal student thing.  Partied, played games, barely attended lectures and breezing through.  I was lucky that a Master’s student (Rodrigo) wanted to create something called an ‘Enterprise Society’.   I was always intrigued by entrepreneurship so I signed up.  We started the society and ran a fundraiser to make money to go to the National Student Enterprise conference in Manchester.  It was so fun.  We came up with this idea in a room and then there it was.  We made over £400.  Creation.  Art. Beautiful.

That is what the new economy is.  Creation and connection.  You have teenagers building apps and selling them for millions of pounds (dollars).  Why?  Because they created it and it connected and created value for people.  People talking to a camera and millions of people watching. Why?  Same reason.

University does not prepare you or teach you any of this.  None.  I was there so I can say that.  They’re still bogged down in the system of marks and essays.  Now coursework isn’t all bad but life is more than that.  I wrote around 20 pieces of coursework at University.  Couldn’t one of those projects been assigned to building a blog?  Solving a local community issue?

That’s not to give all the blame to the University.  Students have to be seeking as well.  The enterprise society was amazing for me (I took over in the second year) as I got a chance to create events and connect with people.  However the student attendance was sadly lacking.  Yes our marketing was a problem, but the apathy amongst most students was often depressing.

That’s why I say University is failing.  They are the one’s providing the environment.  They should be making students aware of the situation and what the world is really like.  That’s not an enterprise society’s job.

We live in a special time.  A 10 year old can learn what the University taught to me in 3 years in about 6 months and for near-zero cost!

So let’s look at it from a business perspective.  In the UK fees have risen from £3000 to £9000.  The quality of the service?  Flat-lined if not decreased.  So even if they don’t want to evolve because that’s the right thing to do,  the change will come to them and less students will go to University. They’ll realise they can learn everything (unless it’s really technical like a Doctor) outside of it.  So what’s it going to be?  The future of University’s and the next generation depends on the answer.

  • Khafi

    Very well written and very true, hopefully the system won’t have to be brought to it’s knees again before it realises it is time for change…

  • Arabella

    Yes, yes! The world is changing before our very eyes and we keep blinding ourselves to it… But you’re right, we can’t just blame the system — at the end of the day its up to students to take charge of their own lives!