In this instalment of AWR, I will be arguing that universities, and university graduates, no longer possess the esteemed and valued position they used to. Instead, universities have become money-making machines which only barely give their graduates an edge over the rest of society.
If you are a current university student or a recent graduate and you have not familiarised yourself with the typical wages of a vice-chancellor then allow me to enlighten you. The University of Bolton is ranked 126th in the UK, out of 131 universities yet the vice-chancellor, George Holmes earned a staggering £290,000 in 2017. Similarly, the vice-chancellor of the London Business School earned £442,000 in 2016, whilst at Sheffield, the number was a similarly eye-watering £423,000.
The point is that vice-chancellors earn an astronomical salary. Indeed, at most universities, the vice-chancellor earns at least 5 times more than any other member of staff. Admittedly, one could argue that anyone who has reached the apex of their specific field or profession should be earning eye-watering amounts. Vice-chancellors are usually very impressive people who work hard for the university and have worked hard for most of their lives. As a university graduate, I would like to think that I would be rewarded handsomely for dedication and perseverance in the world of education.
However, the issue is not as simple as this. The staggering wages come at a time when university students feel a pervasive sense of loss and dejection at the prospect of being saddled with debt for the rest of our lives. Where is our money going? As a humanities student at a good university, I experienced a startling lack of contact hours, barely any of my modules required me to have more than 2 contact hours a week. Most of them were just the one solitary hour. So, if the 9 grand a year isn’t going to staff wages then where is it going? New facilities? More space in the library? It didn’t seem like it. Or is it the all-access student subscription to Jstor?
So why do we go to university? If it is a waste of money and cripples you with debt, why do it? Well, the great myth about attending a university is that it will give you a massive leg up in the working world. You will be highly employable. This does not mean that as soon as you leave university you will be able to do your dream job at a salary that is far too handsome. No. It means that once you leave university you won’t just have to work in the services all day every day. Instead, you can work in recruiting!
I am not knocking recruiting, I work in recruiting myself. It beats working in a cafe easily. However, it’s stressful, competitive, cutthroat and not very fun and I can’t help but feel my university degree should amount to way more than this.
I should add that, those who studied practical degrees such as computer science, maths, and physics have had no trouble getting jobs because the whole job market revolves around those kinds of degrees. So, in that way, a university is still a great stepping stone to success.
There is another way, however. There is a route to success that does not require entrepreneurialism, luck or a university degree. There is a route to a well-paid job that lets you bypass student debt and go straight into economic security. It requires hard work, dedication, focus and an ability to accept that the university experience is not worth it.
Work hard at school, get good grades at GCSE and get into a good sixth form. Work hard at A-levels or whatever you study and when you leave school, find an internship. Various companies will offer internships to school leavers, they may be hard to find but they are out there. Good grades will help. If you can’t find an internship, get work experience. Add it to your CV. When that is finished, find another one. It doesn’t need to be a step upward from your previous one, it can even be a step-down. Add it to your CV. Repeat these steps over and over again and by the time three years have passed (and the first of your friends are leaving university), you will have a CV that screams experience and will make you far more employable than a university graduate who has not worked a day in his life. The real beauty of this route is that you will have no debt, you will be free to make better choices for yourself rather than be crippled with the anxiety of your debt.
Written by Grace Phillips