Many years ago I remember having a conversation around the point that university isn’t for everyone. One of the participants hailed from Madrid and even as long ago as the 90’s, Spanish children were being driven through university as a matter of course. And without the fees and years of debt!
The crux of my Spanish counterpart’s argument was simple: Get the qualifications, have more career and life options.
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment! However, where we differ is that not everyone is going to be suited to the traditional university route and vice versa. Many simply do not wish to follow a profession requiring a degree or higher level specialisation, such as medical, legal or financial roles.
This recent article by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, was good to see: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/im-calling-time-snobbery-students-29991501
If we’ve learned anything in recent times, it’s that our country can and will grind to a halt without key personnel arriving at work and doing their jobs each day, many of which do not require a degree-level education.
Train drivers, HGV drivers, postal workers and nursing staff are just some of the workers whose strikes have massively impacted day to day life in the UK.
In a household emergency a trustworthy plumber or electrician is worth their weight in gold and in regular times, people jealously guard their long-time gardeners, cleaners and the like.
As you’ll have surmised, many key roles in our lives do not require a degree. Why is it then, that children who opt for something other than university are seen as failures or drop outs?
Life experience, social scene and networking aside, is there a tangible benefit to spending 3 years at university (and let’s ignore whether it’s the ‘right’ university and/or degree for the moment!), racking up immense levels of debt, only to find oneself working in a job that wasn’t part of the masterplan? For that is the outcome for many that choose the now traditional path.
Might it be more sensible to recognise and harness the talent of those wishing to work in the trades or similar? Hopefully we’ll come to see that university isn’t for everyone.
Or, and this may sound radical, why not do everything we can to ensure that ALL children get the foundational education they need – let’s start with functional maths and English – to head out into the world, regardless of ambition or lack thereof.
For those that scream “Oh but we do”, the number of children leaving school with inadequate numerical and written English skills is nothing short of shameful. It’s one of the reasons I set up MST Foundation and have begun to offer Pay What You Can tuition. It’s my attempt to ensure that education in the form of high quality tuition is there for all that need it.
Not everyone wants to be the next Elon Musk, Richard Branson or Alison Rose (NatWest CEO) or have any clue about what they want to do. While falling back on the idea of getting the full deck of qualifications and having the choice later seems to make sense, it falls down on one very key element.
Some children are born or develop academic talent or a talent for learning and taking exams, while others simply are not. Others are gifted with dexterity, amazing spatial awareness or simply thrive through manual work. Many of these children that end up being herded into universities drop out within the first year with very little gained except debt and with the additional kicker of lost opportunity to find a suitable role such as an apprenticeship.
One size simply can’t fit all and to go back to the start, university isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK!
For more information about MST Foundation and Pay What You Can tuition (which is delivered online) you can contact me at [email protected].