There’s much to agree with in this post at the academic group blog Crooked Timber which argues that the recent increase in the numbers of those entering British tertiary education isn’t neccessarily a good thing. Here the poster Chris Bertram, who teaches at Bristol University, deals with a potential reply to his contention that quality should come before quantity:
One objection might be that we (collectively) really need all those graduates and that without them we’ll fall behind in the “global knowledge economy”. But I’m skeptical. We need some such people, but we don’t need people who have spent three years ingesting hogwash lectures about the semiotics of advertising or whatever and have then emerged with their one-size-fits-all 2.1 degree. Many of the people on those degree courses are only on them because they believe they need a degree to get a good job. In many ways it would be better if we waived the credential requirements, got them into the labour market earlier, and saved them the pain of student loan repayments, years of debt, crappy lectures, and so forth.
Fifty years ago many jobs: managerial, sales, even being a solicitor (lawyer) could be done be people without degrees. Nowadays many employers won’t even look at an uncredentialled candidate and many roles have been defined so that possession of the right certificates is a formal requirement.
I think that’s exactly right. If a certain managing partner of one of the City’s larger law firm who oversaw its expansion into a dozen different jurisdictions in the 1990’s as well as practicing law at the highest level didn’t need a degree why should it be a neccessary qualification for a person who sells books?