Britain, Education, Grammar Schools, Private Schools, Schools, Unemployment, Universities

Time to get rid of pointless qualifications

Mickey Mouse Degrees

Mickey Mouse Degrees

There is a proliferation of strange courses offered to students that do little to further their career prospects. With tuition fees set to rise threefold it is now urgent that universities offer educations that return that value. Ben Wood reports.

Last year 300,000 students sat their A-Levels at colleges and sixth forms across the country. Among the most popular subjects were the traditionally favourable maths, English and sciences, and of course the more excusable lessons which contribute to the Mickey Mouse choices:

Film studies, photography and physical education are all courses that attract floods of pupils, but for all the wrong reasons. With the desire to attain careers in the vocational areas, some subjects are over-subscribed with teens believing the courses are easy routes to their dream job, but in truth are rarely recognised by employers and universities alike.

In 2010, Trinity College of Oxford University publicly divided the 62 available A-Levels when they produced a list of the 37 that are of “more limited suitability”. So, that’s 60% of A-Levels which are worthless, unnaccepted and rather frankly a waste of time.

Why we are funding these useless qualifications, and more importantly why we are pushing tens of thousans of intelligent young adults into courses without a prosperous outcome?

These money-squandering qualifications aren’t just limited to A-Levels. The art & design degree available at Cleveland College is an applicable example: Six months after graduation, 30% of those that had found work were employed as sale assistants and retail cashiers, whereas only 5% were working within the design sector.

The problem doesn’t always stem from the subject. Degrees in the field of business often deliver graduates into thriving careers, but of those that have graduated with the same type degree from The London University of Arts, only 21% claimed they were satisfied with the quality of the course they received.

So what do we do about this epidemic? Well, each school is already required to employ a careers advisor to steer students onto the right course, but they won’t comment on whether certain A-Levels are more respected than others for fear of a backlash from colleges.

The only solution in my mind would be to engage in a reformation scheme. This would entail serving the examination boards with an ultimatum: Correct the courses to a state in which Russell Group universities would be happy to welcome them, or face striking the subjects off. At no cost to the tax payer and no mass redundancies, I fail to see a flaw.

Thirty five percent of A-Level students go onto university. If they were educated against opting for black listed subjects more would be accepted, more would be further qualified and our nation would be much better educated.

Then the matter of failing degrees: Unless universities drastically improve by reaching set government targets, they should be given a severe fine and no longer permitted to award the qualification.

And what about subjects that don’t serve a purpose and rarely lead to the once desired job? I say we should invest further to warn students of the facts, and too advertise that these “Mickey Mouse” degrees very rarely lead to careers in the specified field.

With the recent rise in tuition fees – the young students of our country must be told how it is. We shouldn’t be allowing them to waste in excess of £50,000 on what they believe is more prosperous than it actually is. And if this indeed continues, we must place the blame firmly onto the universities by pressing them with watchdogs and threatening them with cuts to courses.


2 thoughts on “Time to get rid of pointless qualifications

  1. It is not a new thing to discover that degrees in art, film, literature, social work, fashion design and the like don’t translate into high dollar careers. Sadly, our culture does not appreciate the arts as much as it worships Big Business and money.

    What you do have is a generation or two that has been raised on the mantra “FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS” and indulged in doing that over being more practical. Today all children must win; today all children win trophies. At birthday parties, ALL the kiddies get a gift. Parents are told to tell each child that they are “SPECIAL” and “TALENTED” when they are really just average. This carries over through college, then real life hits.

    I’m all for following ones dreams, but kids need to be a little more realistic and learn some actual workplace skills as a back up plan. I’m still glad I learned to bang away on that IBM typewriter all those years ago. I’m still glad I was made to learn how to drive a truck and a forklift.

    Think in broader terms: for instance, fine art, photography, and film is great, but also learn computer graphics so you can get a job as a graphic designer until you “make it” and get your museum show. Fashion design: also learn business so you can manage a retail store until you put out your fist line. Writing: study communications so you can work in the publishing industry while you write that big novel.

    Posted by missdisplaced | August 18, 2011, 3:13 pm
    • I disagree, I believe that the youth of today should be given all the encouragement that they need, and although average Joe’s son or daughter may not be as talented as they are led onto believe, they should be told to aspire.

      I think the problem lies in students not be educated into the right paths. The truth is that a Media Studies graduate will not be the next Dermot Murnaghan, and although every careers advisor in the country knows this, they can’t let on to the pupils for fear of teaching their own opinion.

      If they knew the truth, there would be plenty more in the classic choice degrees as opposed to the dead end specific degrees. The only reason we are having more and more applications for pointless courses is because they believe it is the most prosperous option; mainly due to the standard careers advisor’s being too frightened to tell differently.

      Posted by Ben Wood | August 18, 2011, 5:39 pm

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