Seeing value only in vocational degrees is really dumbing down higher education

The Telegraph reports that the row over university fees has just hotted up from a consistent tepid to a slightly more tropical temperature, due to a suggestion made yesterday that students whose degree courses do not result in direct employment should be charged higher fees.

The self-anointed disciple of this absurd idea is Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon, who said: ‘I think all courses, given the high payment, the cost, the loan you take, should be about high-skilled employability.’

He then went on to expand his idea, suggesting that students enrolled on subjects that do not lead to direct employment will be punished for their irresponsible choices, being forced to: take out ‘a normal loan’, with no incentives or discounts.

Halfon’s blinkered plan is likely to anger students, given that very, very few degrees lead to direct employment. But more than that, the suggestion to disincentivise – or indeed penalise – students enrolled in liberal arts and creative degrees completely undermines the point of higher education, and reveals a shocking lack of understanding on behalf of Halfon.

Halfon’s suggestion that degrees should methodically feed into employment is narrow-minded and undermines the point of further education, which is not only to develop knowledge but to thoroughly enjoy fully immersing yourself in a subject, unpolluted by the national curriculum or Pythagoras theorem (unless of course, your subject is maths) freer than you will ever be again of the demands of ‘real’ life.

It would seem that students concur. Whilst the most favoured courses last year, according to The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), were subjects allied to medicine, business and administrative studies, more students collectively opted for less “job safe” course options, such as creative arts and design, social studies, physical sciences and history and philosophical studies.

Meanwhile, the best courses leading directly on to professional work were medicine (99% of students are employed within six months of graduating), building (87%) and chemical engineering (78%).

Read more Seeing value only in vocational degrees is really dumbing down higher education

Do you agree with Robert Falon? What were reasons for going to university? Was it specifically for employment or was it because you wanted to continue doing something you loved? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin 

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