Will the University dream collapse in coming years? Has it already?

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username1862217
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The university dream: Getting a degree will open up the doors to many high-skilled jobs and allow you to follow your dreams.

Like all dreams this is an optimistic simplification of a complex system and does not factor in individual circumstances, but in this thread I will argue that this dream is in its entirety an outdated view and is on the verge of collapsing or has already bypassed its sell-by date.

I will examine two factors contributing to this dream,
* The value of university.
* The prospects for university graduates.

The value of university is represented by the reasons why people attend university and the cost of university. Graduate prospects are reflected by the number and types of jobs graduates are taking up, as well as the overall employability of a degree.

Why Do People Attend university?
While there are a large range of reasons, in modern times I understand people attend university to obtain a degree and then get a job. I acknowledge that some attend in the pursuit of knowledge, while others attend for social reasons, and others still use university as a way of putting off getting a job.

For the university dream to be fulfilled the reasons why students attend university must correlate with the prospects of university graduates. Hence if the dream is true, students attend university for reason X and when they graduate reason X becomes a reality.

The Cost Of University.
This is a less varied point. Since the 2012 reforms of the loan system and university tuition fee rises, it has now become nigh impossible for students who receive even the lowest loans to have a reasonable chance of paying off their loan before it expires. The loan is a debt for life for many and that is the bottom line.

There have been many surveys on whether university is value for money or not, and these can be found with a quick internet search. The results from these surveys overwhelmingly support the conclusion that university is not value for money, that the tuition costs are too high, and that the debt is too great.

With all this negativity surrounding the cost of university, one must ask why sixth formers, college students, and the odd mature member are considering university in greater numbers than ever before. The number of applicants to university is on the rise year on year and the number being accepted is skyrocketing, especially after the student cap was removed this year. This number is expected to grow in future years.

From the apparent strong drive young and mature people alike share to attend university, despite the cost being against them, one could be forgiven for saying that the University Dream is still very much alive and it is this dream that pulls people in.

But there is another side to this story.
***
The remaining factor contibuting to the university dream is the prospects for university graduates.

When universities were rare and young, hundreds of years into the past, anyone holding a university qualification would be leagues above the lesser educated public and would have little trouble in using their skills and reputation to chase their dreams. Indeed, even an artist could go to university and leave with something valuable. This is by definition the university dream, proving that it did exist at one point at least.

It is plausible to say that this dream may have been valid for several hundred years, engraining it deep in our modern society. Our history may be what fuels the mesmorising flames of the university dream in the hearts and minds of our youth.

But everyone knows that history is not the present, nor is it the future.

As time progressed our society evolved. It became more educated, and more university-oriented. Powerful political gears were in motion to drive us towards being one of the most developed countries in existence. As businesses demanded an increasing number of highly educated workers, teens were pushed more and more to university to fulfill this role.

Nothing initially wrong here. However, has this push to university has gone too far?

With the dawn of terms such as "mickey mouse degree" and "STEM master race" in recent years one is led to understand that the traditional university dream that we had in history is no longer as valid as it once was. The moment a degree is unemployable is the moment something has gone horribly wrong with our education system.

It can still be seen on TSR and elsewhere students debating whether there is any such thing as a useless degree, or if STEM subjects are any better than other degrees, but the unfortunate fact is that these claims are contradicted by graduate statistics. Some degrees have weak or no job prospects while others are much more viable. This is not a fair system and I am saying that from the point of view of a STEM graduate myself.

It's not so much that STEM has gained more prospects than other degrees, it's that these other degrees have lost their potential, their edge, their employability. The driving force for this loss is very simple: Supply and Demand. If too many people hold a degree, then these people are no longer a league above the general public because everyone else has a degree too. This oversaturation leads to graduates working in non-graduate jobs at alarming rates and for miniscule pay, devaluing the worth of their degree.

On top of this, by working in non-graduate jobs they are displacing members of the workforce who would have otherwise taken these jobs instead of going to university, causing a feedback cycle where students are trying to one-up each other in terms of qualifications to ensure they can be employed.

1. Graduates forced into non-graduate jobs.
2. Students who wouldn't have otherwise attended university now have to attend university to find work.
3. University numbers grow.
4. Next wave of graduates have an even harder time finding work.
5. Even fewer jobs for those who weren't going to attend university so they have to attend.
6. University numbers grow.
... Repeat.
Eventually there is going to be a collapse. There simply aren't enough high-skilled jobs being made to support all the graduates, and the overflow area of low-skilled non-graduate jobs is filling up fast. Soon that too could be saturated. Could there be a time in the future when a large number of graduates are simply unable to find work?

Some fields, such as STEM, have yet to be affected by this saturation due to the industries in question consisting of and requiring a large percentage of highly educated workers and these industries are typically growing at a fast speed, such as in the sciences, which opens up new opportunities for graduates. Yet I do not believe this is sustainable. If the number of STEM graduates continues to grow at its accelerated rate year on year then sooner or later even the so-called STEM master race will fall like the rest.

Meanwhile, competition for jobs in other degree areas is expected to continue to rise, pushing university one step closer to nothing more than a pile of debt with every passing year.

I conclude with some questions for you all.
Is the university dream still alive? Do students go to university with the expectation that they'll be able to find pretty much any job they want when they graduate.
or
Is the dream dead or dying? Are our youth attending university only because their hands are tied? Are there too few available non-grad jobs that aren't being eaten up by graduates or by immigrants, and are there too few alternatives to university?

Is the university dream a desire to go to university to get a job? Or is it simply the result of there being insufficient alternatives?

What does the future hold for graduates?

How serious are these issues?
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Doctor_Einstein
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#2
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(Original post by Keyhofi)
The university dream: Getting a degree will open up the doors to many high-skilled jobs and allow you to follow your dreams.

Like all dreams this is an optimistic simplification of a complex system and does not factor in individual circumstances, but in this thread I will argue that this dream is in its entirety an outdated view and is on the verge of collapsing or has already bypassed its sell-by date.

I will examine two factors contributing to this dream,
* The value of university.
* The prospects for university graduates.

The value of university is represented by the reasons why people attend university and the cost of university. Graduate prospects are reflected by the number and types of jobs graduates are taking up, as well as the overall employability of a degree.

Why Do People Attend university?
While there are a large range of reasons, in modern times I understand people attend university to obtain a degree and then get a job. I acknowledge that some attend in the pursuit of knowledge, while others attend for social reasons, and others still use university as a way of putting off getting a job.

For the university dream to be fulfilled the reasons why students attend university must correlate with the prospects of university graduates. Hence if the dream is true, students attend university for reason X and when they graduate reason X becomes a reality.

The Cost Of University.
This is a less varied point. Since the 2012 reforms of the loan system and university tuition fee rises, it has now become nigh impossible for students who receive even the lowest loans to have a reasonable chance of paying off their loan before it expires. The loan is a debt for life for many and that is the bottom line.

There have been many surveys on whether university is value for money or not, and these can be found with a quick internet search. The results from these surveys overwhelmingly support the conclusion that university is not value for money, that the tuition costs are too high, and that the debt is too great.

With all this negativity surrounding the cost of university, one must ask why sixth formers, college students, and the odd mature member are considering university in greater numbers than ever before. The number of applicants to university is on the rise year on year and the number being accepted is skyrocketing, especially after the student cap was removed this year. This number is expected to grow in future years.

From the apparent strong drive young and mature people alike share to attend university, despite the cost being against them, one could be forgiven for saying that the University Dream is still very much alive and it is this dream that pulls people in.

But there is another side to this story.
***
The remaining factor contibuting to the university dream is the prospects for university graduates.

When universities were rare and young, hundreds of years into the past, anyone holding a university qualification would be leagues above the lesser educated public and would have little trouble in using their skills and reputation to chase their dreams. Indeed, even an artist could go to university and leave with something valuable. This is by definition the university dream, proving that it did exist at one point at least.

It is plausible to say that this dream may have been valid for several hundred years, engraining it deep in our modern society. Our history may be what fuels the mesmorising flames of the university dream in the hearts and minds of our youth.

But everyone knows that history is not the present, nor is it the future.

As time progressed our society evolved. It became more educated, and more university-oriented. Powerful political gears were in motion to drive us towards being one of the most developed countries in existence. As businesses demanded an increasing number of highly educated workers, teens were pushed more and more to university to fulfill this role.

Nothing initially wrong here. However, has this push to university has gone too far?

With the dawn of terms such as "mickey mouse degree" and "STEM master race" in recent years one is led to understand that the traditional university dream that we had in history is no longer as valid as it once was. The moment a degree is unemployable is the moment something has gone horribly wrong with our education system.

It can still be seen on TSR and elsewhere students debating whether there is any such thing as a useless degree, or if STEM subjects are any better than other degrees, but the unfortunate fact is that these claims are contradicted by graduate statistics. Some degrees have weak or no job prospects while others are much more viable. This is not a fair system and I am saying that from the point of view of a STEM graduate myself.

It's not so much that STEM has gained more prospects than other degrees, it's that these other degrees have lost their potential, their edge, their employability. The driving force for this loss is very simple: Supply and Demand. If too many people hold a degree, then these people are no longer a league above the general public because everyone else has a degree too. This oversaturation leads to graduates working in non-graduate jobs at alarming rates and for miniscule pay, devaluing the worth of their degree.

On top of this, by working in non-graduate jobs they are displacing members of the workforce who would have otherwise taken these jobs instead of going to university, causing a feedback cycle where students are trying to one-up each other in terms of qualifications to ensure they can be employed.

1. Graduates forced into non-graduate jobs.
2. Students who wouldn't have otherwise attended university now have to attend university to find work.
3. University numbers grow.
4. Next wave of graduates have an even harder time finding work.
5. Even fewer jobs for those who weren't going to attend university so they have to attend.
6. University numbers grow.
... Repeat.
Eventually there is going to be a collapse. There simply aren't enough high-skilled jobs being made to support all the graduates, and the overflow area of low-skilled non-graduate jobs is filling up fast. Soon that too could be saturated. Could there be a time in the future when a large number of graduates are simply unable to find work?

Some fields, such as STEM, have yet to be affected by this saturation due to the industries in question consisting of and requiring a large percentage of highly educated workers and these industries are typically growing at a fast speed, such as in the sciences, which opens up new opportunities for graduates. Yet I do not believe this is sustainable. If the number of STEM graduates continues to grow at its accelerated rate year on year then sooner or later even the so-called STEM master race will fall like the rest.

Meanwhile, competition for jobs in other degree areas is expected to continue to rise, pushing university one step closer to nothing more than a pile of debt with every passing year.

I conclude with some questions for you all.
Is the university dream still alive? Do students go to university with the expectation that they'll be able to find pretty much any job they want when they graduate.
or
Is the dream dead or dying? Are our youth attending university only because their hands are tied? Are there too few available non-grad jobs that aren't being eaten up by graduates or by immigrants, and are there too few alternatives to university?

Is the university dream a desire to go to university to get a job? Or is it simply the result of there being insufficient alternatives?

What does the future hold for graduates?

How serious are these issues?
I think it depends on what you study.

If you study STEM you'll be fine.
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emtheelf
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Short answer: No, I did not hold the University Dream, though I do think others do.

Longer answer: I did actually look into alternatives to university. I downloaded databases filled with apprenticeship opportunities but the vast majority of those were in London and it was feasibly impossible for me to pay for the season ticket there and the underground tickets etc. on the apprenticeship wage that was being offered and the majority of them did not promise a job at the end so those ones would leave me in debt still. The vocational courses at colleges near where I live have had their funding decimated in recent years and are now at a point where the service really isn't very good - something I think really needs to be looked into and better funded.

I do know some people who have got onto training schemes but the vast majority of them were very lucky and also still needed pretty high A Level results - they all got A/B grades before commencing their later studies. This makes me think that there needs to be an overhaul in the system whereby we have more training schemes on offer that lead to both qualifications and job experience in fields of industry that we have continued need for. If there are so many applicants per place that they're able and willing to ask for higher grades, it makes me think that there really aren't enough of them.

Additionally, as much as I would have hated this at 16 (Biology was my only STEM subject and I dropped it after AS), I feel as if we need to have a chance of system to one more like the IB or French/German systems. This way, most students would at least have the qualifications in the right subject to go into training where there was space, even if they disliked it at first - at least until they had the work experience to be able to switch jobs to something they liked more.

Ultimately, I think that's the largest problem with university - it's all well and good having the transferable skills but there's no job experience there. I worry already about my prospects leaving university and hope to get good enough results to be able to apply for graduate schemes such as the Civil Service Fast Stream. I do think that students realise the lack of credibility degrees really get now, certainly most of my friends did when we discussed it, but I think some still see it as the golden ticket to better jobs.
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username1862217
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(Original post by Doctor_Einstein)
I think it depends on what you study.

If you study STEM you'll be fine.
I do talk about STEM in my post. I feel as if STEM could end up following the rest eventually.
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