CH1 L55: Education – part IV (universities, inflation, and absurdity I)

  1. In the last post, we discussed that the science era had prioritized trained people, thus a new competition had come to existence: climbing the educational hierarchy whose rewards were mainly better job opportunities, making more money and higher social status [1].
  2. Limitations create competitions and the outcome has some winners or losers. For example, If a university had the capacity for 1000 students, just 1000 students would win those seats and the rest would lose them. (They lost an opportunity which doesn’t make them losers in general)
  3. Every competition creates a hierarchy whose pressure falls on the shoulders of the lowest tier and being at the bottom of the education hierarchy, in my opinion, is the most painful one for two reasons: first of all, studying is mostly a mental job and it’s been correlated with intelligence. Since Homo Sapiens are mostly proud of their brain, being at the bottom of this hierarchy is the most painful one.
  4. Secondly, you can hardly quit, at least for 12 years you’re supposed to study. 100 or 200 years ago, people would take the end-year exam and if they’d passed, they would’ve gone to the next grade, otherwise, they must’ve repeated it and in many systems, if they’d failed a year twice or three times, they would’ve had to leave the school. So, some people studied 5 or 6 grades, they learned how to read, write or do basic math and that was enough. But now, it seems like forever for students to graduate.
  5. The rules of competitions make them easy or difficult. If you’re asked to run 1 km, the outcome would create a hierarchy from the fastest to the slowest, but most people could achieve it; the mediocre runners might not feel the joy of winning but they’d be content because at least they could meet the criterion. They didn’t fail.
  6. Now, increase the distance to 42 km and most people would fail. The hierarchy is still there, but the high passing threshold would make it a more painful experience for the majority.
  7. So, limitations create competitions that have winners or losers. Some people might think that if we have more universities, then we could get rid of the limitation and there wouldn’t be a competition. In fact, it has happened and many universities have mushroomed all around the world up to the point that if you failed your high school, there are some universities that accept you just if you pay the tuition fees. Has it solved the problem?
  8. First of all, there’s still a competition to get to the top universities. Secondly, on the next level, a huge number of graduates will be filtered by the market. When there are limited job opportunities, most degree holders can’t find a relevant job or any job at all, so either they’re unemployed or they’d do something which didn’t require the degree at all. Those are called underemployed.
  9. In the United States, the overall graduate unemployment and underemployment rate in 2009 was respectively about 4% and 43% which means even if we increase the number of universities and courses when the market is saturated, a degree holder won’t be able to find a suitable job. [2]
  10. In the UK the rate is more or less the same. Only around 55% of degree holders have a full-time job [3]. This rate is more likely higher in developing or underdeveloped countries because their governments can’t create enough jobs to meet the job seekers’ needs. That’s why we see this phenomenon that some college or university graduates go back to their parents’ house and play video games.
  11. So, having more universities just creates a bigger group of dissatisfied people. It’s so painful that you work as a cashier with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. I’ve seen Ph.D. holders as cleaners, janitors or beggars.
  12. More universities are the outcome of the need to get a qualification and they’re just business institutions, so as long as you pay money, they train (?) you regardless of the fact that you’d find a job with the knowledge or skills obtained. If 1000 people would like to learn Klingon [4], some universities would offer that. In fact, they did. The University of Texas at Austin has offered a course: “Invented languages, Klingon and beyond”. [5]
  13. We’ll continue this discussion in the next post.

Footnotes:

[1] Link to the previous post

[2] [3] Link to the Wiki page on graduate unemployment

[4] Link to the Wiki page about Klingon

[5] When I was googling to see if any universities had offered Klingon, I came across this website [Link] which listed ten university courses that you wouldn’t believe they actually existed. I’d recommend you to read through it to get an idea about the degree of the absurdity of tertiary education in some institutes. They exist just to give a qualification to those who couldn’t get to any established universities or programs.

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