Sunday, 1 March 2009

Not another brick in the wall

My ex has just been made a director at a globally renowned company. My brother-in-law has also been promoted at the high profile government organisation where he works. Both these men hail from different parts of the world, but the one thing they have in common is that neither of them have a university degree.
For those graduates looking with despair at the current job market, or those students nearing the end of their courses, it must seem like the last three or four years of their lives have been a total waste of time.
Yes, well, been there, and tried on the t-shirt. My friends and I graduated and joined the job market just as the last big recession hit Britain. Some of us temped until we got into our chosen field, or saved up to go travelling. Children, mortgages and responsibility were a long way off, so the one thing we did have in our favour was freedom.
Slowly, however, all that grafting started to pay off. My first proper job in journalism paid a whopping £8k per annum. But I slogged away and kept learning and by the time I was 24 I had a column in a national newspaper.
Those mates who used to join me propping up the student union bar are now TV producers, journalists, politicians and solicitors. None of us did 'vocational' courses at uni. Instead we enjoyed learning for learning's sake (and a healthy amount of partying, of course).
Yes, there have been dark times for all of us (although maybe not quite as dark as this). But hard work and perseverance always pay off, and although we may have regretted some decisions, going to uni definitely wasn't one of them.
A friend who is a member of the landed gentry is amused by what she describes as the 'middle class obsession' with education. But she was born into a life of privilege. The rest of us have to earn to achieve our goals, and while a degree or diploma won't guarantee you'll walk straight into the job of your dreams, it will improve your career prospects.
Of course, I am fiercely proud of what my ex and my brother-in-law have achieved. Would they have got there a little faster if they had a degree? Who knows - and in the current climate, it doesn't really matter. University isn't necessarily a means to an end, and if you view it that way, then you'll be disappointed. What it is, however, is one of the best experiences of your life - and you can make of it whatever you choose.

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