Further education as a marketing brand
Is further education about learning and development or personal branding?
The changing costs of university education in England have sparked much debate, generated miles and miles’ worth of column inches and given a few individuals ‘legitimacy’ for anarchy. It will continue to be an issue as the fees take hold, and the subject will doubtless rear its head again before the next general election in four years’ time.
Yet I think we’ve been marketed a dream of further education that is perhaps out of perspective. Like in the rest of the consumer society where we believe that having the right clothes, postcode or motor car promotes our well being, we now have a distorted view of further education.
Does a £9,000 degree make you twice as smart as a £4,500 degree? Or is a £9,000 degree the one which gives you a certificate with the ‘right’ college name on it? University degree by brand? This of course isn’t new – just that now you have to consider the financial value of it. If you’re now going to spend twice as much for the right certificate, you now have to be honest with yourself – am I going to this university because the course is twice as good (and the material worth £4,500 x 3 more), or is the status of the degree worth £13,500 more in the job market? Either is valid. Which are you really buying? (Note: Really. Buying.)
Similarly is a £4,500 degree worth infinitely more than no degree? The dream we’ve been sold is that every student should be able to have the right to go to university. Somebody forgot to remind us that just because it’s there, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
No degree would probably be better for many students who leave university poorly prepared for working (for the likes of you and me or anybody else). And often in serious debt although that’s a whole other subject. Last week I received a CV for a telesales role from an individual who had pretty much flunked GCSEs and A levels but managed to do a degree in History and Art. The CV proclaimed that the individual was now looking for a career in telesales or customer service. Go figure.
Soichiro Honda who created the Honda motor company studied engineering but never took the final exams. The knowledge was invaluable to him. The certificate superfluous.
Working out whether education is a results-orientated process on its own that sets an individual up for a successful and happy career / adulthood / life, or whether it’s a personal branding exercise (that may or may not then become a valid pathway to the former) is now in sharper focus.