Universities and Training

I read this today, and it made me think a little about my own situation. Basically, a report has said that Universities and businesses should be working closely together, resulting in more courses like Loughborough’s BSc in Car dealership management… Erm, am I the only one who wonders about this? What does that mean? Do they write essays on persuasive sales techniques? Courses on fiddling the speedometer? And that’s the bit that confuses me. I’m not against vocational training, really, it’s a great idea, I just question whether university is the place for that kind of thing. Law and Medecine have an awful lot of content – things that have to be learned before the student can become a professional – but what is there to learn about car dealerships? The history of car selling? Call me old fashioned, but to me University is about acquiring knowledge and studying something deeply and academically. You know, writing essays or scientific reports, attending lectures and having academic discussions. This is not the way I would choose to learn to manage a car dealership. If I was looking for someone to manage a branch of, say, a peugeot dealership, I would look for someone who had worked in a similar company for at least a year or two, had experience of managing people and dealing with numbers. You can get this by getting a job in the local dealership – and guess what – you get paid for it! If you go to university you have to pay them for the privilege, get yourself in debt and then probably find yourself out of work when the someone the same age as you who left school at 16 gets the job.

This is the problem with degrees – my other half has an Oxbridge degree in a maths based subject – yet when he looked for a job in accountancy no one would even interview him, because he has no experience. He is super intelligent with a degree to prove it, very competent, learns quickly and works hard, yet this appears to make no difference – he just hasn’t got the relevant experience. He was told, just like the rest of us, just like I’ll be telling my students, that a degree from an elite university means the world will be your oyster. This has turned out not to be the case.

So, vocational degrees. Useful? I’m not convinced. If you want to be a car dealer – get a job at 16 washing the cars on the forecourt and work your way up from there.

As a PGCE student I’m expected to spend a lot of time at Uni and doing academic work. At the moment I’m writing an essay on something important, but as I’m spending ages looking at the theory behind it rather than learning it, I’m not convinced of the usefulness of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying my course, and I know it’s important to know about the theory of education and about the newest and most important changes in education – but I can’t help feeling that I might learn a lot more if I spent less time writing essays and more time actually teaching.

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