So this week has seen A-Level results day. That day of the year where so many jump up and down, schools sell pictures of their prettiest female students to newspapers and some kind of future begins to be mapped out for some.
I got into university based on several years of hard work that culminated in a fairly respectable A, B, C at A-Level. Some people aren't so lucky, some people just have to apply to one of the many half empty courses and get a place through clearing without all of the effort of having to do the learning.
In the four years since I graduated, no one has ever asked me what my degree classification was except for my parents and friends at my graduation ceremony and so I fully suspect that the people who didn't have the qualifications to get on my course and subsequently did not work hard on my course, haven't been asked either.
This means that my CV, post-graduation, looked alarmingly like so many others.
Are there too many universities? Are there too many courses? Or are there just too many people who are let onto degree courses without attaining the relevant qualifications to be there?
The minimum requirement to get into a job where people actually care about your qualifications is now a master's degree. A master's degree costs a lot of money and there is no loan to cover it so because of the amount of people who got into university despite not having worked hard enough to earn their place, it now costs £000's to stay ahead of the pack.
Before student loans came in, people said that the system only worked for the rich and many hard working, intelligent students were left behind because they were not from affluent backgrounds. We brought in grants then loans and a level playing field ensued. Now it is back to what it was.
Those who can afford masters degrees can get ahead.
Those who can afford to intern for six months can get ahead.
Those who are not from affluent backgrounds but who worked hard to get to university now just have a nice bit of paper and a photograph in your mortarboard for your family mantelpiece.
The reason that the above three statements are correct is because too many people are being let into universities.
This isn't a class war I am trying to wage, it is a war against those who have devalued my degree by gaining theirs. A third class degree from a poor university is not worth the same as a 2:1 from a fairly decent university yet when you put them both on a CV, they look the same. Employers do not look at university rankings when recruiting, they look at what course you did and what you have done afterwards.
Why should we be encouraging as many people as possible to get into university when we could be encouraging the best people to go to university?
By trying to convince everybody that the best route for them is university, we as a society are creating an aspirational culture that we cannot sustain. Who will maintain our service industries when all the waiters have degrees as hotel managers? Who will clean our streets when all the street cleaners have degrees as town planners?
People go to university because they expect to come out and earn a fairly large percentage higher wage than they would without a degree yet in reality this isn't happening anymore because the market is flooded with graduates.
It is too easy to condemn what many think are useless degrees because as was the case with me, it was the desire to continue my education that led me to university. Instead we should be encouraging people to follow carry paths that will not only benefit society but are actually attainable given their personal skills. If you are good with wood, become a carpenter, don't go to university and study history and if you are good at history, go and study it.
It would be inhuman to suggest that people are held back from reaching their potential but it is not inhuman to suggest that some people have not got the academic ability to go to university and by doing so are devaluing the process for others. The reason that degrees from Oxford and Cambridge will always give make you stand out is because they do not accept people without a minimum standard of education behind them.
Some of the most innovative people I have worked with did not go to university and as the A-Level results rolled in from across the country, countless celebrities tweeted about their lack of A-Levels. So why push people into going further than they should with their education when there are worlds of opportunity elsewhere?
Would it be too much to have a minimum of three Cs at A-Level, or a high quality creative portfolio for some courses, to get onto any course at any university? It would not be and it would show employers that across the board, graduates will be of a high standard. Competition for jobs would be higher but the candidates would be so much higher and everyone would benefit.
It has been reported that at one point on A-Level day 400 students a second were calling to find a place at university through the clearing process. That number implies that that many students did not get the grades needed for university. In the same news report it just showed a young man getting a place at his university of choice through clearing. It was not the course he wanted, so why is he doing it?
If you work hard enough and get the grades then you should be supported in following your education pathway for as long as you wish to pursue it. If you do not get the grades then proper support should be in place so that you can explore your potential outside of the classroom.
I believe that creative courses should take students based on portfolio evidence of their skills. Academic ability and creative ability aren't always comparable and as should each student should be admitted to a course based on the best evidence available to the university and based on the requirements of the course. This means that the best students will be able to get onto the courses that they really deserve to be on