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The recently elected president of the NSU in the UK, Liam Burns, is quoted in the Herald Scotland as saying the following when he was NUS's Scottish president:


At the end of the day, the point of the university has changed. If you look at when only 5% of the population went, that was about knowledge, discovery, pushing boundaries, people talked about the crème de la crème. That's not the purpose of universities now - it is about social mobility and people changing their lives. The reality is you need that bit of paper to get into better jobs with greater earning potential and influence. So we want as many people to get one as possible, at the expense of quality if necessary.

I did go to university when fees were paid, there were grants and I found work in the holidays without too much difficulty, so I do feel sympathy for today's students- I left with a degree and a tiny overdraft, not a huge burden of debt.  However, I find what he is saying astonishing.  If  it is true that the primary function of universities is social engineering, then when was this change made and by whom?

Degrees are inflationary but he's advocating hyperinflation- the more people with them chasing jobs, the lower salaries will become and if this is compounded by sacrificing quality for these social goals, then companies will simply recruit foreign elites to fill spaces, which is already happening as we have record numbers going to universities combined with a skills shortage.  The most likely consequence of his view is a greater social immobility and wider gaps.  If the paper is  worth less, it won't secure entry into the jobs he is talking about.  I think university should still be about knowledge, discovery and pushing boundaries.

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5 Comments

It's not just a view though, it's the reality of universities today. They're business that sell degrees to as many students as possible.

I feel sorry for people who are going into very heavy debt to get a downgraded qualification, and I find it worrying that the leader of the National Union of Students can be so cavalier about quality ad expect that sacrificing quality will not have a negative impact on graduates' employability.

Undergraduate education is a complete joke. And if you want a minimum wage job at GAP, you should have a BA.

We have students entering graduate school and finding it too difficult to read *excerpts* from basic theory texts. The frightening thing is that most professors accept that as normal.

In addition to the corporatization of the university, you have people who got downgraded education now teaching new generations even more downgraded education.

If I come across as bitter, it's because I am. =)

Employers in the UK regularly bemoan the skills that people have and lament the gap between achievements on paper and practice, yet we remain locked in a spiral of soaring results.

I appreciate what the professional is saying. My recent experience is to bemoan the gap left after encountering the over-paid high school drop out who can't stop laughing at and making less of a fool of himself as we both recognize folly...the drop out can make it financially and the graduate is left to suffer the drop out's demands, giving, and suffering. The fact that he does not have to hire or give to me is too much equity for him to bear really. I must scrounge for myself. By the time scruffy has found a job she is pretty much eating the crumbs off of any table that dare leave any. If education, as Liam Burns has said according to our member Tdol, is, "...about knowledge, discovery and pushing boundaries" then education should not be had for education's sake and an investment in education should be to the better person and better student resulting in a better distributor of educational product than the drop-out can ever hope to deliver.

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