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UK Politics: The Tory leadership (disg)race to the bottom and beyond - not worth a Penny.


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3 hours ago, mormont said:

 

Producing more graduates should help to improve productivity, but this can only happen if the increased skills are put to use. Graduates, no matter what their degree, have useful skills: critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills, willingness to learn, reading and research, many more. But if they're not trained to or asked to or able to use those in their job, that's a waste. 
 

The question here is whether graduates are uniquely possessed of such skills that can only be attained by going to uni. I'd argue that for many this isn't really happening. Such soft skills or logic skills can just as easily be acquired by simply getting a job or apprenticeship and actually.. doing stuff! 

I do agree that we are in a low productivity economy, I don't think encouraging a large percentage of people to go to uni is helping that however. You are essentially taking a large swathe of the population out of the working pool, saddling them with debt, often not giving them the tools to help increase productivity. 

It might not be that 'useless degrees' is the problem, but it is a symptom of a wider problem.

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38 minutes ago, BigFatCoward said:

A policing degree begs to differ.

Anecdotes can differ with data all they like. I've had 25 years of anecdotes vs. data on this subject. 

One thing I will say is that universities now are focusing more on explaining to students what skills they are actually learning, a thing that unfortunately many students don't seem to understand. Clearly stated learning outcomes and recognition of graduate attributes is a huge benefit.

I'll also say, bringing this back to the Conservative leadership election, that the idea that the only way to measure the benefits of higher education is by graduate salaries has done more harm to higher education in this country in the last three decades than any amount of allegedly 'useless' degrees. 

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Have thought for some time that one of the big problems with the UK education system is its lack of integration with RL jobs. Not in the sense that kids should be brainwashed with the latest management buzzwords or taught that the only relevant way to calculate value in the world is by placing a pound sterling sign in front of everything, but because it's pretty much impossible to decide if you want a job if you've never done it or anything like it before. 

When I was at school, you were supposed to do a one/two week stint of work experience. I didn't even do mine because I was too full of self-loathing at the time to imagine anyone would want me in their work environment spoiling things, and no one ever followed up on it. As far as I know, the system is still pretty much the same. 

It was through doing different jobs in my twenties that I found out about myself, and what I could and couldn't do, but that took up a big chunk of my life and was deeply inefficient. If teenagers had more of a chance to experience different workplaces, and also were given a decent grounding in the economics of careers (supply + demand; where to find reliable information about where there are gluts/shortfalls in trained workers), it might be so much easier for them to make choices that work for them. (Eta: Apparently something like this is in place at least as regards advice. I imagine it probably gets squeezed into one lesson when the kids are too young for it though.)  

But I doubt there's a perfect way to do it - one that ends with people in jobs they're suited to and that pay enough to have some sort of life outside work. 

I can't say completely that my humanities degree was a waste of time and money because I was studying a subject that I loved. At the same time, if I had access to a time machine, I'd tell my younger self to do something different, and I'd give the same advice to any child of mine unless they had a really determined/outgoing personality. 

Edited by dog-days
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Just now, dog-days said:

 

When I was at school, you were supposed to do a one/two week stint of work experience. I didn't even do mine because I was too full of self-loathing at the time to imagine anyone would want me in their work environment spoiling things, and no one ever followed up on it. As far as I know, the system is still pretty much the same. 

It was through doing different jobs in my twenties that I found out about myself, and what I could and couldn't do, but that took up a big chunk of my life and was deeply inefficient. If teenagers had more of a chance to experience different workplaces, and also were given a decent grounding in the economics of careers (supply + demand; where to find reliable information about where there are gluts/shortfalls in trained workers), it might be so much easier for them to make choices that work for them. (Eta: Apparently something like this is in place at least as regards advice. I imagine it probably gets squeezed into one lesson when the kids are too young for it though.)  

But I doubt there's a perfect way to do it - one that ends with people in jobs they're suited to and that pay enough to have some sort of life outside work. 

I did mine in a bank. Someone stuck a sawn off shotgun in my face. I don't recommend it.

However it was the catalyst for me wanting to join the filth, so there is that. 

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47 minutes ago, mormont said:

Anecdotes can differ with data all they like. I've had 25 years of anecdotes vs. data on this subject. 

One thing I will say is that universities now are focusing more on explaining to students what skills they are actually learning, a thing that unfortunately many students don't seem to understand. Clearly stated learning outcomes and recognition of graduate attributes is a huge benefit.

I'll also say, bringing this back to the Conservative leadership election, that the idea that the only way to measure the benefits of higher education is by graduate salaries has done more harm to higher education in this country in the last three decades than any amount of allegedly 'useless' degrees. 

The data shows retention and sickness is horrendous with graduates of the policing degree(not degrees in particular though weirdly). I'd guess because they are sold a lie and its a huge disappointment.

I've not seen any evidence anecdotal or empiric that they perform any better. 

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1 hour ago, mormont said:

I'll also say, bringing this back to the Conservative leadership election, that the idea that the only way to measure the benefits of higher education is by graduate salaries has done more harm to higher education in this country in the last three decades than any amount of allegedly 'useless' degrees. 

What would be the metrics to measure how successful or useful a degree has been to an individual and society at large? Graduate salaries is surely a pretty good way to measure it.

If parents are investing in their child’s future, getting them a good education, making them work hard, it’s surely so that they earn more when they are older above all else.

 

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14 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

 

If parents are investing in their child’s future, getting them a good education, making them work hard, it’s surely so that they earn more when they are older above all else.

 

I expect that my kids uni will cost me 150 grand. If they aren't going to earn more because of it, I'd rather use it for a deposit for a house if they aren't doing something vocational or necessary. 

Edited by BigFatCoward
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4 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

What would be the metrics to measure how successful or useful a degree has been to an individual and society at large?

 

I'm not sure such a thing can be measured. To the extent that "measurement" implies a level of quantification, I'm not sure such a thing should be measured. There are absolutely arguments to be had about what people should learn and how they should learn them, but questions about value or usefulness to both societies and individuals seem to be philosophical rather than economic.

Or rather, you can measure them economically, but in so doing you're tacitly accepting certain premises about what education is for that need to be backed up.

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2 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

I'm not sure such a thing can be measured. To the extent that "measurement" implies a level of quantification, I'm not sure such a thing should be measured. There are absolutely arguments to be had about what people should learn and how they should learn them, but questions about value or usefulness to both societies and individuals seem to be philosophical rather than economic.

Or rather, you can measure them economically, but in so doing you're tacitly accepting certain premises about what education is for that need to be backed up.

Well I think there is a point about what education is for being asked here. I see the argument a lot that Uni is a place to help grow a generation of thinkers, make kids into better people, to shape them. I tend to dispute that this really happens for a lot of people. I haven't seen any evidence that people with degrees are any better at logical thinking than anyone else, or that they are more rounded people, better decision makers etc. There is maybe a correlation where more rounded, hard working people end up getting degrees but I don't think our higher education system is moulding people in the way it gets talked about. 

For a lot of people the value of higher education is that it will allow you access to better paying jobs in the future, I'd say that is the primary metric. As mentioned above a degree is so commonplace now the requirement for jobs is getting higher and higher. A few people I know have had to do masters degrees to try to advance their career just to get a foot on the ladder, and they do this because they have the expectation that they will get a better job down the line. 

Also, I think you have to be able to measure these things somehow, otherwise how do you judge whether something is worthwhile or not.

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6 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

I'm not sure such a thing can be measured.

It can be. Graduates in general tend to be healthier and have healthier lifestyles, live longer, and have higher levels of satisfaction with their life, even after controlling for income. They are more politically engaged, more inclined to volunteer, and commit less crime. The non-income benefits to society and the individual are measurable and real. 

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1 minute ago, mormont said:

It can be. Graduates in general tend to be healthier and have healthier lifestyles, live longer, and have higher levels of satisfaction with their life, even after controlling for income. They are more politically engaged, more inclined to volunteer, and commit less crime. The non-income benefits to society and the individual are measurable and real. 

Yeah my point here is its probably more likely that healthier, less criminal people are going to be going to university, rather than higher education creating these behaviours.

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36 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

Yeah my point here is its probably more likely that healthier, less criminal people are going to be going to university, rather than higher education creating these behaviours.

You don’t think the researchers would have controlled for that?

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1 hour ago, mormont said:

It can be. Graduates in general tend to be healthier and have healthier lifestyles, live longer, and have higher levels of satisfaction with their life, even after controlling for income. They are more politically engaged, more inclined to volunteer, and commit less crime. The non-income benefits to society and the individual are measurable and real. 

Could you link to the research, Mormont? 

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1 hour ago, Maltaran said:

You don’t think the researchers would have controlled for that?

it's very hard to control for, to be fair. But think about what I was saying earlier about graduate attributes. Those aren't just useful in earning money. If you take a group of people and teach them to think critically, research things, work with their peers, and so on... is it really a great mystery why they would live longer and show more civic engagement?

10 minutes ago, dog-days said:

Could you link to the research, Mormont? 

Here's a THES report on the National Statistics survey on happiness, which shows graduates as being happier (though interestingly the effect does not increase much for postgraduate study).

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/degrees-happiness-graduates-report-higher-well-being

This is a US study linking education level to life expectancy:

https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305506

Civic engagement among graduates:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2378023119859708

There's lots more out there. Like all demographic research, assigning causes is complex, but the evidence base is there.

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55 minutes ago, mormont said:

it's very hard to control for, to be fair. But think about what I was saying earlier about graduate attributes. Those aren't just useful in earning money. If you take a group of people and teach them to think critically, research things, work with their peers, and so on... is it really a great mystery why they would live longer and show more civic engagement?

Here's a THES report on the National Statistics survey on happiness, which shows graduates as being happier (though interestingly the effect does not increase much for postgraduate study).

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/degrees-happiness-graduates-report-higher-well-being

This is a US study linking education level to life expectancy:

https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305506

Civic engagement among graduates:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2378023119859708

There's lots more out there. Like all demographic research, assigning causes is complex, but the evidence base is there.

Thanks!

There's some odd stuff in the full HEFCE report. For example, graduates in London, the North East, the Midlands, and the South-East are reported on average as being more anxious than non-graduates. But if you come from somewhere else -  you're reported as being less anxious. Pretty much swinging in a hammock with a Netflix show and a piña colada, if you're from Northern Ireland. (Because Northern Irish people don't feel right describing themselves as anxious if no one's in the area with bombs and guns?) 

Page 17 has a graph with wellbeing divided by subject studied at undergraduate level. The former Education students appear very happy. Either they all have a vocation to teach, or their students put them in contact with the best dealers. 

Page 19 breaks the results down by age. Not surprised that graduate wellbeing is felt less by more recent graduates. In 1994, there were 271 000 HE acceptances given to UK students. In 2012, there were 465 000. (562 000 in 2021). 

It doesn't seem to look at things from a social class perspective unless I'm overlooking that section — I tend to think that, if degree inflation hadn't led to degrees being needed for access to non-graduate jobs, the people reporting themselves happy in the survey would still be reporting themselves at about the same level. 

Edited by dog-days
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Well, that's just a snapshot: there's a ton of other evidence out there if you look that would, I'm sure, address some of these points.

As I've discussed before, the idea that 'degree inflation' means that you now need a degree for jobs you didn't used to is more complex than that comment really reflects. Some such jobs really do require a degree now, because the jobs themselves aren't the same as they used to be: they've changed and require different skills.

But in any case, I see no reason to support a hypothesis that the people in those jobs would be just as happy without their degrees. But if you do believe it, you should probably be able to find data to support that idea.

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25 minutes ago, dog-days said:

It doesn't seem to look at things from a social class perspective unless I'm overlooking that section — I tend to think that, if degree inflation hadn't led to degrees being needed for access to non-graduate jobs, the people reporting themselves happy in the survey would still be reporting themselves at about the same level.

I have only had the time to look briefly at that report but yeah that was my thought too. How much do graduates do well on markers we already know people from higher income families do well at? 
 

The biggest question I am curious as to whether it gets answered, is whether getting a degree makes you live longer and all the other metrics mentioned , or is it just that other factors like wealth and social class which we know are very good indicators of those things. What is the cause of those better markers? Is it going to uni or is it better parenting?

If they aren’t asking those questions or even controlling for them, I’m not sure I really see the value in any of it

Also that those with degrees reporting more self esteem is hardly surprising if you set up a system where a majority of people get degrees ( whether they need them or not) and those who don’t become a sort of underclass. 

Edited by Heartofice
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@Heartoficethere's a difference between a degree being taught poorly and the degree itself being pointless - from your earlier comments it sounds more like you were taught poorly. Which is genuinely aggravating given the amount of time and debt you need to invest in it, but it doesn't throw the idea of the degree out with the bath water.

That said, I agree with you that society and employers having an expectation that everyone will go to university is not a good one - on top of all the other problems it also puts pressure on universities to act in a way that hampers the quality of the education they provide. I disagree with you on what should be done to address that though - I think trying to make degrees more connected to employment will just worsen the problem. Degrees should give you the framework and tools you need to be able to learn a job when you start it, not be expected to teach you everything you need to know about the job before you even know what exactly it is you'll be doing.

For context if it matters, I don't have a degree and I'm employed in a technical job. Most of my coworkers do have one, and I think I'd have a hard time getting my job coming in from the outside now. In a handful of undergraduate arts subjects I have picked up skills that make me a dramatically better communicator than my coworkers learnt to be from their CompSci degrees.

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