I Predict a Riot: Time we squashed Graduate numbers…

Last week saw the ridiculous riots at Millbank Tower in response to the necessary spending cuts announced by the Government recently, and of course most particularly – the reduction in student loans. What was intended to be a peaceful demonstration, turned into a debacle as the fury was whipped up around student circles so much that too many people turned up, and some people who probably had no business with student loans in any case turned up to pelt police officers, throw chairs, and ramraid windows at the Conservative HQ reception area.

Mothers of students, you must be so proud of your sons. You always hoped they’d go to university, so they could do this.


Clearly these students weren’t Ecomonics students, but most pressingly, can we call these people the `Academic Elite` of our country?

Well that’s the problem – they are not.

When I was at school in the 1980’s the term `graduate` was a medal of honour, a certificate of being in the 5% elite educated minds in the country, and you had to work seriously hard to get into University. People who know me, will know that I’m a pretty intelligent bloke, I would like to think. My parents really aspired for me to go to University – but I wasn’t good enough – I didn’t get the grades needed. Not even for a Polytechnic, the second tier of degree-based education which soon after was merged into the University system, and subsequently began the process of dumbing down Graduate status.

So, I had to work a 5 day week, in fact a 6 day week – dread the thought to the modern student!! I made a decent career out of it, spending most of my career earning `above the average`, and proving the academia wasn’t everything. My best mate also failed his exams, joined Barclays on YTS at 16 on £39/wk and was a Director of Barclays by 25 years old, and is about to move to Africa to head up the largest bank in the continent in 10 countries. Not bad from 3 GCSEs. Incidentally, he now has a Cambridge degree and a Harvard diploma through his professional development. He’s in the world `elite`. But he passed just 3 GCSEs.

The cuts are a spike into our system, all the cuts are – but without getting too political – the mismanagement of the economy that led to the recession meant this decisive government who acted to rescue the country rather than panda to a popularity agenda, have had to make such adjustments. I don’t know if this was part of the agenda, but by making the prospect of University existence less manageable, and more of a risk – they in doing so will probably reduce the numbers of future graduates. It’s not the perfect way of achieving this – but it’s a good thing. Why?

The graduate for years now has duped into believing that getting a degree; any degree; will enhance their career prospects. Well I have news for you. It doesn’t. Unless of course you came out with a practical, career-applicable, or academic subject. The ability to do a degree in everything from film studies to ball juggling in the past decade or two has meant Universities have been `open for all`, and no longer the elite. Very PC, sure – but it has dumbed down the Graduate.


We need to get more people working at 16 or 18 years again, and get people understanding how you build a career through application, experience and hard work – but most importantly – professional attitude. People will say there are no jobs out there. Well 4500+ new jobs were added on Monster yesterday in the UK, and over 1000 on reed.co.uk – just to take a sample.

Interestingly, of those c1000 on reed.co.uk, only about 60 had the word `graduate` in the job title or job description. Of the 4500+ on Monster, only 228. Between 5% and 6% of all work posted on those sites yestetday required someone of a graduate calibre.

For those who target a career with specifically with a graduate education at the heart of the necessary – go for it – it will cost you more in loan gathering in the short term, but your rewards will surpass that – and when there are less university students, those costs will come down again because the state will have to support less such people.

For those employing staff, think about taking on a 16-18 year old apprentice again on a low entry salary like my Barclays mate was, and train them to be incredible, like my Barclays mate.

For those who advise 15-18 year olds on their career opportunities – be practical – University ISN’T for all, it’s for the academic elite – and less than 10% of advertised jobs require a degree.

The rest of us should go to work, intern, take apprenticeships, and build a career that will usurp your misplaced graduate mates when they leave university at 22 years old and subsequently sit in a call centre for a year… 

…with you, managing them.



7 thoughts on “I Predict a Riot: Time we squashed Graduate numbers…

  1. Aha! – great minds think alike James. Actually I do have an answer – but I figure it would cost the state money – so it’s a no-go-zone!

  2. Couldn’t agree more. For ages I have felt we are cheating our children by making it de rigeur to go to university. What do a lot of them get – a huge debt and a two a penny degree that has cost them thousands. They then struggle to find a job that has anything to do with the subject matter they have been studying for three or four years.

    The argument is that it gives kids ‘life experience’. Well guess what, so does starting work at 16 or 18 and getting on the job experience and being debt free. It is ludicrous that a target of 50% of all school leavers going to university was set (sorry Labour, I can’t stand the Tories but you got that one wrong) and even the current level of 40% is too high.

    How demoralising in these dire economic times that someone in their early 20s sets out in a career (if they can find a job) owing thousands and with no prospect of getting on the property ladder. How sad that the government turn round and say :yes, but they only pay it back if they earn more than a certain amount. Ah yes, that sounds fair – study for a few years, rack up a debt but then stay in a job below the threshold of having to pay it back? Where’s the sense in that?

    I honestly despair sometimes for the generation coming through now. yes there will be entrepreneurs and winners, but boy are there going to be a lot of people whop feel cheated by the system.

  3. Thanks for the comments Alconcalcia – it is indeed a crazy target to set 50% University-students versus 10% graduate calibre required jobs just doesn’t add up. Degree’s are so often wasted – but more importantly so are 3-4 years of working life. Even 15 odd years ago, my mates from Uni were struggling to gain employment and I was comfortably employed with a career under my belt. We have to educate teens to recognising and targeting their career choices FIRST, before targeting University places

  4. When I was at school in the 1980’s the term `graduate` was a medal of honour, a certificate of being in the 5% elite educated minds in the country, and you had to work seriously hard to get into University

  5. For some reason it’s lopped the bottom off my comment. I agree with your statement. However, raising tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year does not disqualify the less intelligent, it disqualifies the less well off.

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