‘Horses for courses’

by Anita Caldwell

RMG asked a selection of experienced professionals their opinions about going to University. 
100% concluded that going to University has benefited them in their current roles, even if they haven’t used their direct academic learning. The benefit of being ‘eligible’ to apply for a role in the first place to get on the ladder, or being a quiet ‘given’ at a later stage for a career promotion or application. But moreover it is seen as being about developing personal ‘confidence’, ‘independence’ etc, using University as that transition from home to adult life. (It is a shame to think that actually as more students now are choosing to live at home to cut costs of University, this is a detrimental trend in society, besides the cause of first rung house prices, are we losing the wider personal ‘maturity’ education to fly solo in the world?!).

The majority of professionals have a mind-set that ‘continuous learning’ in some shape or form is necessary and beneficial for personal development and well-being, one quoting pensioners studying degrees. Many people have opted for self-development courses, higher academic degrees, or professional work expertise.  73% of people have commented that if they had the opportunity to now go back to University they would and take the chance to study ‘ANO’ subject for interest and pleasure. But in the main, probably would still have broadly chosen their original subject or course, usually chosen because it ‘matched their personality and natural attributes’ as a student at the time of leaving school. It has been commented, that the ‘natural’ route of higher academic degrees has changed in the last 20 years, with PHD’s now becoming more specific rather than generalist and although still the best route for research and NPD style roles, maybe a Masters, in particular an MBA, becoming seen as the favoured route of an ‘all-round’ strategic business qualification, but each still with its own merit, it is ‘horses for courses’.

As a recruiter, I see the lack of skills in the current UK industry, leading on from a dearth of students studying STEM subjects in past years. I think it is a huge shame that ‘Science’ hasn’t been  taught in a more interesting way in traditional schools in the past to engage students in understanding how fundamental Science is to all aspects of our lives and business. In the past ‘Business’ and ‘industry’ was not discussed at all as a subject. I believe there is still a disconnection of discussing the multitude of potential career routes into industry and commerce.    

In the last few years there has been a great positive movement and effort in education, industry and government to engage young people to have an interest in Science and all STEM subjects. There has also been a much needed return to offering many apprenticeship schemes too, an excellent alternative route into many vocational and practical careers, including such as Engineering and IT. Personally, I don’t believe everyone should be encouraged to go to University, as in recent years. It’s also ‘horse for courses’ as students, parents and employers should consider the wide routes available for higher education or practical career routes at this early stage, to best suit individual needs, preferred ways of learning and for employee succession planning. 

Should University be free? Did our professionals agree with paying for University or not? With the backdrop of fees rocketing in recent years for the unfortunate students in the last catchment phase, ensuring the majority with an underlying background of debt! Is it worth it? I am sure it has certainly made many students seriously consider their real options before going to University in the last 2-3 years, compared to even 5-6 years ago. We have found professionals are divided on this with 55% thinking University can’t be free to the individual and a contribution should be made, but many of these believing that in an ideal world University should be free and a meritocracy for all on ability, but from a practical business perspective unfortunately it has to be paid for somehow. 

So overall, people who have been to University agree that University has been beneficial for their career paths, but although we would like this to be free, we unfortunately have to accept it has to be paid for.   Also accepting other routes into careers are also very valid and necessary for our skills shortage problem.      


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