31 October 2005

Higher Education: Nobody's Laughing

Previous Post: University vs Trade

Getting a University education has long been the way to get a good job. However, the governments misguided attempts to force people into universities is having the obvious consequences. A university education as a stepping stone into a job is being washed away; it's becoming a joke. And no-one is laughing, except the politicians.

Not all men (or women) are created equal. Not everyone is a genius. For everyone with an IQ over 150, there must be one with an IQ less than 50. That's why the average IQ is 100 (see Wikipedia entry here.) Wet-finger-in-the-air-guesstimation says that only a quarter of the populace have the required intelligence to go to University and graduate. Intelligence is not the only factor but it's a good indication as to a persons ability to assimilate degree-level information; quoting from the Wiki article, "IQ is strongly correlated with academic success...".

So, as the government force more people into University, they correspondingly want to make sure the move is a success, so they can look good in the Commons. Rather than rely on the abilities of the undergrads, and thereby hugely undermining the whole exercise in the process, they do what politicians do and spin the results. Now, since we're all up to speed on spin, the next generation of Spin Doctors1 go one better and force those marking the exams into giving people "inflated" marks, thereby removing the need to spin (and the responsibility) from the government. Their numbers look good and their hands are clean.

Hopefully, the more technical disciplines (Chemistry, Physics, Medicine!) maintain their entry critera (to prevent unnecessary explosions, if nothing else), which means that embryonic Universitygoers choose something pointless like Media Studies. They get their inflated first year Media Studies results, think "A is good" and press on with the next few years, further indebting themselves in the process. They then all pop out at the end and, if they're lucky, get a job on some pubescent digitial TV station as a lackey on some god-awful reality show. Hmmm, I wonder how much hidden funding flows from the government into the TV networks to fund new digital channels so the media types have something to do in the afternoons?

Rather than further castigate the governments policy of forced university attendance2 (which I've already covered), another thought occurs. Since the laws of economics apply to TV (I really hope they do) as to all companies, then there must be some demand for all this drivel the postgrad media types supply? But where does the demand come from? Has bad TV become self-perpetuating? Are there enough Media grads out there to provide enough demand to keep their fellows busy cranking it out?

Maybe Economics doesn't apply to TV. Maybe the government feels that is sufficiently in control of things that they can spend time subverting economics and giving jobs to the multimedia masses. The one plus side to all this is that talent becomes the stand-out commodity. Just as long as they don't make a bloody TV show about it.

1 No doubt graduates of Spin Medical School.
2 Which replaces National Service. You won't die, but you'll still pay the price.

The day after I originally posted this, the linked article appeared on the BBC. They didn't, however, examine the link between new digitial channels and the spate of media studies grads.

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