The pangs and jitters of leaving home to pursue a college degree for brighter prospects can be a life-altering experience. You get to live on your terms, make new friends, venture into unchartered territories and most importantly, find yourself for what you are. But unlike on the surface, college isn’t all fun.
Almost a synonym to financial and personal sacrifices (thanks to the exorbitant tuition fees!) college is more than frat parties and beer pong and spring breaks. Moreover, higher education today limits to classroom-bound skills and fails to teach skills that are required to be successful at work. Several students have failed to find an excellent job despite graduating from top programs. To bridge this gap, it is time that higher education sheds its orthodox skin and teaches students to unlearn and relearn to transform the future of work.
And there are more than one pain points that call for a revolution in the spectrum of higher education. Let us see how higher education can be enhanced.
7 Areas Where Higher Education Needs Immediate Disruption
While there is no definite path to revolutionize higher education at the moment, there are certain areas that need to be confronted RIGHT NOW. Here they are:
- Higher Education needs to be more practical skill-based
The world is experiencing a job boom right now, giving a favorable timeline for young adults to find their calling through their dream job. And yet, every single day graduates either face rejection or put their papers down. This is mainly due to the mismatch between the jobs the young generation wants and those available.
Today, most jobs require variant skill sets that applicants can’t offer because the universities have stressed more on the theory than on reality. You won’t get through Harper Collins if you can cite lists on paper in MLA style. That can be done using a mere MLA citation generator too. So why would they buy that as one of your special skills? You need to be aware of the latest colloquial trends and proofreading to make through the final rounds of interview.
- Students Need To Be Aligned With What They Are Good At
With students picking degrees that have more demand over choosing something that they are passionate about, colleges have turned into robot churning units. Streams like medicine, science and business studies take the lion’s share, while social studies and literature and linguistics are made to take the back seat. The result – A fish on a tree and a bird in the water.
For most universities, career counselling department is more like a formality – a way to stay compliant with education board laws. As a result, most students end up in careers that are not aligned with their talents. Adding on to the dismal picture, there is the possibility of future jobs that will be hard to predict, that require more than just college credentials. So it is time that colleges take in students by the score to fill in seats. They need to assess and counsel the student to see if he or she is at all made for that discipline. This would paint a better picture for the college as well since their graduates won’t have to face job rejections.
- Students want jobs and not ostentatious titles
However, poetic may Dead Poets Society be, the numero uno reason why students invest time and money on college education is to bag a well-paying and decent job. Educators need to understand that students no longer value the actual process of absorbing knowledge. Most students are looking for financial stability primarily to secure their future. They don’t care about their grades as long as they can get through one of the Fortune 100 companies.
But, in stark contrast, 40% of college graduates in South Africa have been recorded to work in jobs that don’t require their qualifications. Again, the other side of this coin is even more horrifying. With colleges enrolling students by flocks and handing out degrees by scores, the level of education has gone down by alarming notches. As a result, degrees have become pedestrian, thus losing their value. This is one area where the educators need to go back in time to bring back the value of knowledge over degrees.
- Tuition Fees needs to be brought down
Besides healthcare, the cost of higher education has almost tripled in the past 20 years. Consequentially, student debt has reached an all-time high. It is sad to see how education has been brought down to the ranks of business. Yes! Like business houses, college degrees are measured in terms of ROI – i.e., how much goodwill a student from your college can bring by getting through a high-end job (a raw advertising strategy). As the education sphere gets into minting money, graduates lose value due to the herd strategy (as mentioned in point #3).
In the era of technology, e-education has brought in cheaper courses with flexible fee structures, but there is a catch. While universities like Oxford and Cambridge have opened up several courses online, these prominent institutes are reluctant to provide a diploma certificate on completion. And that brings you to square one because without the certificate, your career vistas are limited.
- Students should be given believable standards
Every university, irrespective of its global ranking, advertises itself as the haven of success. This leads to high expectations among students, which at times the college fails to fulfil. First, a brand is not going to hire you just because you are a Harvard turnout. Gone are the days when the brands had the last word. You will be hired only when you are capable of giving the brand measurable results.
Moreover, everyone cannot be a CEO or manager. It is just not possible to give everyone their dream job. Schools, therefore, need to set career aspirations that are viable. Also, they should capitalize on actual talents over self-perceived talents to lead to workplace harmony for the young workforce.
- Universities need to prioritize teaching over research
Most prominent universities have one thing in common – besides the Ivy League fanaticism – focus on research at the expense of teaching. The crème de la crème of the faculty take to teaching due to the lower teaching load and freedom to research. This too is about the dosh. The journals that publish the research papers are owned by profitable publishing empires. These publishing houses which rake revenue in billions, a part of which goes to the college trust too.
This is why the higher education system needs to prioritize classroom over the research lab. Some may say that research is the engine of innovation. But in no way should research be an excuse for neglecting actual education. In the meantime, it will be up to individual departments in universities to strike the right balance between their emphasis on and incentives for teaching and research.
- Universities should practice meritocracy
The value of a university degree is inversely related to the socio-economic status of a student. To put it simply, if you are graduating from Oxford or Harvard, you would anyway achieve career success because of your privilege, wealth and contacts. This is what makes admission to Ivy League colleges so ironic. The students who can afford to pay high “donations” (if you know what I mean) were the ones who did not have to find their way into the college because their wealth and privilege guaranteed a good job.
And that is not all! Colleges have become the hub for nepotism, with affluent students sending their children to their alma mater, thus creating a never-ending loop. Even when elite universities open doors for minorities, they prioritize on the “privileged poor”, i.e. the Black or Hispanics hailing from higher socio-economic status.
In short, it is high time that we reconsider how the current model of higher education is hampering today’s young adults. Success is no longer defined by a degree, but by the ability to learn, adapt and apply. If these areas are redressed, the picture can be made better. After all, we owe to our future generations since they will take over the world soon.