What is the Point of Uni?

The Point?

Asked internally of many a University student is the eternal question: What is the point?
For one, there are the rising standards of education. More and more young people are choosing to go to university and therefore:

BA, BSc, BAE, BArch, BDiv, BFA, LLB

Could soon mean as much as:

AIu, Ghb, JAo, YAb, Czk, MHN.

A degree used to mean getting a job, it is not a guarantee anymore.

University, a universal qualification

A large proportion of the population have a degree and therefore to outdo the ‘norm’ of bachelor degrees there is a need for a Masters degree, and then everybody will have one of those…

It has become the expected thing to do for young people with a certain level of  educational background. It is simply the ‘done thing’ to go to university. Many will go for the party, many for the shrinking job prospects, many because their parents said so, and – in my experience – only some for a real passion for their subject. It has been a well known saying that if you don’t know what to do- do law.

However underlying this, there is the assumption that you have to go to uni, you have to choose something. Is that right though? Should this be the case? Is the point of university not to educate those who truly love their subject and wish to study it for three or four years? Not social pressure. As far as job prospects are concerned, is it really right that you need a Masters in Catalan Identity to work the computers in a bank? I suspect many of those at University do not intend on pursuing a career in academia.

Side note: I have a mini rant to impart on you.
It has to do with the university’s APA policy. I have found that almost everybody going into university have not done their previous education in the style of the American Psychological Association (APA). Most students have to part with their footnote-making ways and learn how to cite in text (O’Sullivan, 2011). This, although difficult to adapt to, would be something I saw point in – had it not been for the fact that all my friends attending other universities do not seem to be enduring such (seemingly pointless) rigorous lessons on how to write in a particular style. They are told to stick to footnotes or citing in text – or whatever you prefer, as long as it is consistent and academic.

I do appreciate that UCM (I am not sure that I can speak for the university as a whole) attempts to introduce the students to not only the subjects but also the way we write about them. However, I feel that the strict pedantry that is employed to enforce these APA rules in a strict manner (in many cases affecting your grade significantly) where the formatting style is equally capable of docking marks as the content – is not acceptable. If UCM wants to be taken seriously by the ‘big’ universities in the UK, and I think it does (many students do Masters in the UK, although this point also goes for many universities the world over, with exception perhaps to the US) – then we have to adopt either a footnote system or a ‘consistency’ policy. The APA style, although incredibly credible, is laughable for many in the UK.

6 replies
  1. Julian Slotman
    Julian Slotman says:

    You ask the justly question whether it as valuable for ones future/ career/ whatever when one does not pursue an academic career. Obviously at the University you learn nothing applicable in day to day life nor professional life (few exemptions though), so what’s the point of spending thousands of euros on tuition fees and bookds and years of studying? The answer can be found within the field of Game Theory: try look up the ‘Job signalling game’. The main point of this game, which is not too difficult to understand if you some basic knowledge of GT, is that we can consider education a big investment. I know it’s a little black/white but let’s assume that in a population we have smart and less smart (dumb) persons who can all apply to (higher) education, now the investment will naturally be much higher for the less smart, since they will probably not get their diploma in the same amount of years as the smartasses. Therefore, even assuming that employers base the wage of new employees on their diploma only, regardless of their intelligence or productivity, less smart persons will probably not choose to study since the benefits do not outweigh the costs. Employers can therefore safely assume that people with a degree are skilled employees and offer a higher wage. The only question you still need to ask yourself is whether you think you´re smart enough!

  2. Julian Slotman
    Julian Slotman says:

    Obviously, the above game is really black-white, e.g. in reality you should differ between degrees and not considering all degrees as equally valuable, but if you get the point of the game you see that it is also applicable in reality.

  3. Mentor Palokaj
    Mentor Palokaj says:

    This game is entirely flawed since the amount of time (you signify this as the investment, since more time will mean more money) is not that much dependent on intelligence. In the present education system ‘intelligent’ people often fail in high school already due to not being challenged in the right way and being restricted by a flawed system.

    Taking university as an illustration of your GT: I know there are plenty of the what you call ‘dumb’ students who get very nice grades by working very very hard. I also know those ‘smartasses’ as you call them, who get lower grades and even take more time studying simply because they get by by putting in no effort. Thus the amount of time invested is NOT dependent on the smart/dumb. It is even my experience that the ‘smart’ take more time simply because they put in that tiny bit too little effort and fail a semester.

    Also you assume that people know that they are one of the ‘smart/dumb’. Though I don’t know about you, but none of my friends have ever gotten an IQ test…

    “Obviously at the University you learn nothing applicable in day to day life nor professional life”

    Dude, I don’t know what you’re from but this is THE WHOLE PURPOSE of university. What university are you at that you learn nothing you will need in your personal/professional life.

    Ps. Catriona, your blog just got it’s first blog brawl

  4. Julian Slotman
    Julian Slotman says:

    Dear Mentor,
    Thank you for responding! Obviously the game is flawed, I already pointed on the simplicity of the game but your attempt to throw away the whole theory just pointing on some minor examples (which, in my opinion can be considered minor) is not doing the main idea justice.

    To respond on your remarks:
    1. I did not intend to make a sharp distinction between smart and dumb, what I intended, and what the game intends is to distingate between more productive and less productive workers. A company will probably be more willing to hire a more productive, yet less smart, worker than the brilliant but lazy worker. You pointed out that a diploma might probably not fully cover intelligence, but this does not contradict my statements (though not really accurately formulated), nor the theory.
    2. I see that you study Life Sciences, which is in my opinion applicable in personal life, as well as in professional life, indeed. However, much academic studies, especially the classics such as Physics, Maths, Biology, Philosophy, Language (retorica), and in an earlier age also Economics, have nothing to do with day-to-day life. Do I mean that they have no significant impact on our day-to-day life? No!! We owe all technological innovations and rich culture to studies like Physics, Economics and Philosophy! But the individual choice for studying at a university is based on the rational choice: what will I be? If people decide to study Life Sciences or Medicine they make their choice based upon a future profession they have in mind. For other studies such as Economics or UCM they make their choice based on the idea that future employees will be more likely to hire them.

    Get it?

    3. I do not intend to start a brawl, I just want to enlighten people reading this blog. If you don’t like the idea of the model, please comment, but try to do it based on arguments attacking the theory, not just the details or formulations I used. I suggest you to read the theory first before commenting aggresively. It’s what we learn at Uni right?

  5. Mentor Palokaj
    Mentor Palokaj says:

    Hello Julian,

    The whole brawl thing is an inside joke, sorry for the misinterpretation…

    My biggest issue is that you say that Uni is of no effect in our professional life. A physicist to take your example will (sorry if I assume too much here) find his education of applied formulas quite useful in his professional life. Besides that everything you learn in uni changes your perspective on the world, and economist will see a lot of different things in a supermarket that a physicist but I can imagine that you may see this as far fetched.

    “For other studies such as Economics or UCM they make their choice based on the idea that future employees will be more likely to hire them.”

    Assuming you mean employers I think a lot of UCMers would be quite hurt at that. For one, I study UCM and have no motive of making myself ‘better’ in the view of an employer.

    As for the economy study argument you make, fair point. But that is kind of a bad motivation to go to uni (in my opinion, so yes that is fully debatable).

    Have a nice day ^^

  6. Julian Slotman
    Julian Slotman says:

    I’m glad we found some agreement here. I agree with you that studying changes your perspective on the world, but I doubt many young people choose to go to Uni to change their perspective on the world. My main point is that getting a University degree sort of guarantees a good profession. Catriona mentioned a big group of young people going to uni without having this urge to change the world or even without the motivation just to enrich their intellectual skills and understanding of life/ world etc, and she questioned whether it is really the best thing to do for them to go to uni. What I tried to show that it just is the best thing to do for this group.

    To conclude, and I agree with you on that, sadly this big group lacks any academic motivation. But they still learn a lot at uni and will prove to be good workers, managers, lawyers, etc. Our society also needs people like them!


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