Today’s You and Yours dealt with the role of the undergraduate degree in the UK, primarily from an employment standpoint. That’s all well and good (or isn’t, as increasingly seems to be the case) but there was an argument raised and then dismissed somewhat that bears repeating.

One speaker talked about the way in which a university education broadens horizons and allows space to grow as a person. A little later a man in his late sixties poured scorn on the notion. Way to fight stereotypes, eh?

I certainly see the value in taking more vocational degrees but I also feel that to overlook universities’ role in shaping young adults does our society a disservice. The older gentleman’s generation had a lot more autonomy from a much younger age – mine don’t feel qualified to call ourselves adults without smirking until we’re well into our 30s. That isn’t actually a complaint – previous generations had a tough time and I’ve no desire to experience what they had to endure.

It’s an important point though – at the point of joining university we’re still teenagers. We’ve been railroaded into higher education and expected to make big decisions about our futures without any real grasp of what is out there.

Having the space to find our passions is really helpful in creating a better society, I feel. Surely it’s better to have graduates enthused about things and ready to push things forward than more worker bees competing for an ever-dwindling number of jobs?

By that I mean that what we need to create further employment is a combination of visionaries and those who can make it happen. If there’s no room for our young people to find their way to such things then progress feels unlikely.

At the moment it feels like we’re somewhere between the two. Encouraging young people to go to university but then not getting them to explore and learn was a big problem, at least at my uni. We don’t exactly have much of a culture of participation and so when given the time and space to explore the result is mostly a sad trombone.

Well, I did my bit to help that at least. It’s someone else’s turn now.

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