Is it really worth getting a degree ?

With the current focus by our new Government on giving students a helping hand, it seems reasonable to ask how much better off we will all be from their “this year is on us” policy.

University education is one of the great follies of modern life. Central government spends over $3 billion on the tertiary sector, which contributes surprisingly little to our economic well-being. Free education is, regardless, very popular, even if it is useless, and this government is committed to expanding the number of students enrolled.
Academics and universities are assessed on the calibre of their research, not their teaching competence, and because they get paid regardless there is no incentive to be relevant. And they aren’t. When did you last use anything you learnt at varsity that you wouldn’t have picked up on the job or from Wikipedia? […]

Good question. I’ve asked around the office and found that a surprisingly small percentage of my colleagues have a degree that is specific to the job we do. Some have degrees, but in something completely unrelated to what we are hired to deliver, and some have no degree at all. I wouldn’t have been able to tell, they all seemed equally competent. So does having a degree really make a difference to the quality of the work delivered on a day to day basis?

[…] In 2016 the government asked the Productivity Commission to have a look at this sector. It wrote:
“Despite the theoretical links, researchers have generally struggled to find strong empirical links between [tertiary] education and economic development. In New Zealand, comparatively high levels of tertiary attainment in the working-age population have not translated into high levels of productivity.” […]

But economic development is only one measure.  What about the Doctors, the Dentists, the Vets. While I’m sure experience helps them to practice their craft better, there has to be a baseline of knowledge to begin with that can only come from study, usually a degree attained at a University. I would not be mad keen about having my appendix removed by someone whose only reference was the internet.  So maybe some degrees are worthwhile?

[…] There is a diminishing value to education. The first thing we learn is language, which is incredibly useful. After two decades we are studying the Gini co-efficient of Ghana and protesting the wage gap. These kids would be better served by earning money and experience in the workforce rather than incurring debt and protesting inequality.[…]

He is right on this one, Universities do seem to churn out a lot of social justice warriors.

[…] A courageous government would confront this issue rather than accelerating the inflation of qualifications to the point that you need a degree in hospitality to manage a bar.
But we don’t have one of those.

He’s right again, we don’t have a courageous government.  Nor should you need a degree in hospitality to manage a bar, but that seems to be the standard these days.

I’m not convinced that having a degree means one employee will do a better job than someone without.  So is it really worth encouraging our children and grandchildren to amass a huge debt so that they can get a degree of questionable value ?  Or should we instead be putting the focus on encouraging our school leavers into a trade – builders, plumbers, electricians – where they will get the right amount of knowledge to actually do the job.

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