University – an education in life

Hustings for the Students' Union Elections at Warwick - just one of many ways to get involved and learn skills at uni. Photography: Tash Clark 2011

After AC Grayling’s announcement of the New College of the Humanities to open next year charging £18,000 fees annually and it’s subsequent praise and criticisms, the future of the university is very much still in the public eye.

Under the previous Labour government, the target was for 50 per cent of all students to go to university. There were considerable debates surrounding the rise of tuition fees to around £3000 and money was poured into the education sector.

Going to university is consistently seen as better than anything else you can do after completing A Levels. Going to college, having a gap year or even getting a job is not respected quite as highly as a three-year stint at a higher education institute.

The way that many of us disregard vocational qualifications in today’s society shows a disastrous shift in our education culture towards one focused solely on achieving through university. Builders, electricians, carpenters and music producers all have the possibility of earning thousands of pounds more a year than some university graduates, and going straight out into the big wide world – whether on a gap year or securing a full-time job – can give you the life experience skills you need as you go. Going to university doesn’t always mean lack of possibility and opportunity. Simply watch one episode of The Apprentice to see Lord Alan Sugar sneer down at his peers and remind them that he never went to university and has proved incredibly successful nevertheless.

University was – and still is – seen as the key to a good job and a good education. Graduates can apparently earn up to £200,000 extra in their lifetimes with a degree, albeit one in Engineering will probably be more useful than Media Studies.

But university isn’t about the degree itself – that can easily be learnt from books and tutors – as it can prove irrelevant post-graduation. What is it that is important to employers then? A dedication to education perhaps, showing the perseverance to persist and succeed. More likely, it is the skills that we learn at university that really set us apart from others who didn’t go.

When you look back at your time at Warwick, of course you will – hopefully – remember the things you learnt in lectures and seminars about poetry, Hobbes, hydrogen chloride or whatever else you’ve supposedly stuffed into your already overflowing brain. But think about all the other things you’ve learnt that are beyond any university education.

There will be many first-years, who, at the beginning of the year tried to shove a takeaway Chinese into the microwave to re-heat it, only to see the microwave start sparking, smoking and making odd noises and as a result, set off the fire alarm and see many disgruntled members of their block wandering around outside in their pyjamas at 3am. It is abilities such as these (cooking, not starting fires) amongst other attributes including team-work, presentation skills, working to deadlines, research knowledge and common sense which will help you to succeed in life, and is really what university is trying to teach you.

So when you look back over your first, second, third or final year at Warwick, the Boar hopes that you will think about all the things that you’ll have done this year which have added to your experience at University, and indeed in life. Whether it be a part-time job, being on the exec of a society or simply learning how to cook pasta, take it in your stride and treasure it. These are the skills you need to succeed not in a job, but in life overall; these are the things you will remember and probably not Kant’s theory of transcendental idealism.

Published as an editorial in The Boar, the University of Warwick students’ newspaper on Tuesday 21 June 2011.

1 Comment

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One response to “University – an education in life

  1. Pingback: A deluded education culture | Tash Clark

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