Devaluation by Degrees

A senior educationalist said this week that though qualifications offered by many Universities recently upgraded from College of Further Education status are regarded as “Mickey Mouse” degrees, such vocational qualifications as degrees in plumbing, brewing beer, leisure centre management and rock music studies are proving their worth in society.
This man must have a degree in talking bollocks.
The degrees awarded by traditional universities are not and were never intended as vocational qualifications, they were evidence of an ability to think creatively. To talk of vocational degrees is to reduce the degree to a glorified school leaver’s certificate. Medicine was ever something of an exception being a hybrid, while sugeons and physicians must have gained proficiency in established techniques, skill in diagnosis is something that cannot be taught.
Now I have never been one of those traditionalists who thinks Universities should only award degrees in fusty old subjects like mathematics and geography. All things must evolve including education. But a degree is surfing techniques? Eff off!
Plumbers and Brewers to pick up two trades mentioned in the article, traditionally prepared for their careers by serving formal apprenticeships. These, by the late twentieth century, involved a mix of hands on experience and classroom education to combine theory with practical skills. A perfect blend for tradesmen and craftsmen. People who managed leisure facilities had usually been successful in their chosen sport although I remember at the Golf Club where I used to caddy for pocket money in school holidays the Secretary, effectively the CEO of the club, was a retired solicitor. He looked after finances and ran the administration of the club while the professional gave lessons and sold equipment, the head groundsman looked after the course and the steward ran the bar and catering. All were experts in therir own field. Only the retired solicitor had a degree, in law rather than Golf Club Management.
Would somebody with a degree in Golf Course Management do a better job than that team. I doubt it somehow, all were experts in their own trade and had a wealth of experience.
Does a Rock musician need a degree in Rock studies? The usual career path goes: learn to play (sort of), join a band, get some gigs, be in the right place at the right time.
It worked for the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Paul Weller, Suggs, The Gallaghers of Oasis and the lads in the Kaiser Chiefs. “Just Fucking Do It” as Bob Geldof says.
How does one earn a degree in plumbing anyway? The purpose of a degree is to establish the ability to bring a new approach to a subject, not to prove a certain level of knowledge.
I was once asked why I hadn’t done a degree in history. I quipped that there was nothing new to study in history. But I have to say my literature BA is a joke. The techniques is exactly as explained in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys; turn the question on its head and come at it from an unusual angle. The answer doesn’t have to be right (in fact at degree level there are few right and wrong answers merely different ways of looking at things) so long as it is original.
Now call me old fashioned by I would rather employ a plunber with a few years hands on than one who is so original I get covered in shit when I switch on the shower.
The degree factories that recent governments have turned colleges and Universities into simply turn further education into an industried. Thus the goal is not to advance human civilisation but to create more degrees, attract more students, earn more fees, increase profitability, maintain growth and improve market share.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s