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« Old Reliable - Josh 357 | Main | Carbon debrief has its pants down »
Monday
Jan182016

A crack in the ivory tower

The Bookseller is reporting that Penguin Random House has been experimenting with a non-graduate recruitment scheme. So successful has it been that they have now decided that they are going to waive the need for candidates to be degree qualified at all.

The main point of universities was always to act as a filter for employers, revealing those best academically equipped for management positions. When Tony Blair decided to vastly increase the numbers of young people who went to university, that raison d'etre disappeared. Penguin's new approach is therefore simply a logical response.

Is this the beginning of the end for university education?

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Reader Comments (22)

Speaking about uni's I just discovered a remarkably objective presentation of global warming on the OU from 2007.
http://www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/ou-on-the-bbc-truth-will-out-global-warming-caused-human-activity

So maybe there's hope for objective discussion some uni's yet. Or maybe having publicised it on this popular blog, the Bobwardian illiberals will have the heretical bits deleted.

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

As G&S noted some time ago: "When everybody's somebody, nobody's anybody". My younger son, who is just coming up to A-levels, has already decided not to apply for Uni and would rather get some work experience.

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:34 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Exactly. Now we have 50% university attendance, it means that substantial numbers of graduates are below average intelligence which misses the original point. To get these people in to university, the school system has been cleverly crippled.


Teenagers' learning 'dumbed down' - BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7692843.stm

This study suggests that pupils are better at faster but less complex answers
Today's 14-year-old pupils are better at quick-fire answers, but much worse at complex questions than teenagers in the 1970s, research suggests.

However, when it came to a higher level of understanding, researchers found that today's pupils were much less successful than in the 1970s. This could be described as a process of "dumbing down", says Professor Shayer, in which the culture of learning favours an instant, superficial way of handling information. This also means that there is less emphasis on thinking more deeply and developing skills that provide a more substantial grasp of ideas and concepts, says Professor Shayer.

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I asked to see my medical records. I perceived a huge gap in intelligence between older and younger doctors that isn't apparent in conversation. They are barely literate (and very arrogant).

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I liked it when uni's were for the elite because then at least you knew those being churned out were the best of the best. Now days that any can go (and are actively encouraged to go) uni's are churning out substandard graduates full of self importance!

The days of requiring a degree should be buried given how poor graduates are these days!

Regards

Mailman

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

JamesG @ 1:09

Sadly James, that is no longer the case. I've been an OU student for >10 years and over that time have seen the warmunistas' influence grow each year.

Jan 18, 2016 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterView from the Solent

1992 is the relevant date for UK university expansion. This cannot be blamed on Tony Blair!

Jan 18, 2016 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterbasicstats

I notice in the Spiked list the absence of Imperial College, my alma mater. Does this mean that, as was the case all this decades ago for me, the students are too busy working to waste their time on deciding what they could say to each other?

Jan 18, 2016 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Even in my day the Uni courses were largely redundant, though to be fair the stuff was moving so fast, it was out of date by the time I emerged at the other end. The only value for doing the course was as a foot in the door with employers.

There are things I would now like to study or at least share tips with people more knowledgable but the courses just don't exist or they'd be stupidly expensive if they did. I've had more joy watching free vids or reading blogs. I see the future of education being in the style of vids and interactive exercises that can be followed anywhere, any when. Add online discussion groups and you can learn more than was ever possible before. In theory the Open University should be offering this sort of thing but the list of subjects it offers is short and dismal.

The question - will it be some enterprising company that hits on the right formular or will people work it out for themselves?

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I hope so. As a training for commercial work, universities nowadays offer negative services. People come out less well equipped for profitable work than when they went in.

They come out well equipped to live off government grants, though...

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

" Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma. "

Jan 18, 2016 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Major and Blair share the blame. Major for deciding that polys should become unis, and Blair for the 50% target.

Jan 18, 2016 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

My friend's company, a news and photo agency have never given a preference to people with degrees, even ones relevant to the job. They've long known these pieces of paper to be mainly worthless.

Jan 18, 2016 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Johnson

A university degree used to mean that you were either good or rich. Why you need a degree if your last name is Kennedy or Bush? To get the right acquaintances. Read Wooster and Jeeves.

Jan 18, 2016 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

"The main point of universities was always to act as a filter for employers, revealing those best academically equipped for management positions. "

Not quite correct as I remember it. When I was at school it was explained that 'O' and 'A' levels were auto-correcting over time as your grade was decided on the percentage of marks gained. Simply put, the say, ten percent of entrants gaining the highest marks were granted the top grade and so on, thus it was not possible for ever increasing numbers to gain a top grade. Indeed, the average mark for those gaining the top grade might have been, say, 90% one year and 75% another depending on the difficulty of the questions set. And perhaps more importantly in regard to the point here, 'O' Levels were primarily designed to test basic knowledge, i.e. more or less rote learning of facts, while 'A' Levels were designed to test understanding of the subject and knowledge gained. Universities thus gained the most capable entrants, all of which had the potential to gain top degrees and those that did were truly the academic best of the best, some purely in terms of subject knowledge and understanding, others in overall capability and 'well-roundedness' and all points in between as well as demonstrating how fitted they were for all the required roles, not just management.

The modern dumbing down has occurred because understanding is no longer deemed so important or even necessary, simple rote learning more often than not will get you all the way to top grades, thus the plethora of folk with a lot of learning but a distinct lack of wit we see today.

Jan 18, 2016 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter C

Random House has discovered a new Best Practice - why waste money hiring graduates if the trend is rublishing books with more pictures and fewer words in them?

Climate denial is less about denigrating science than celebrating Non-U Nonsense

Jan 18, 2016 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

@Bishop Hill, Update on Jan 18, 2016

In related news, the latest free speech on university campuses ratings are up at Spiked! Another reason why universities are going to make themselves redundant.

The censorship at Edinburgh was apparent in 1991/92, the main library in George Square (EUML) refused to make available the UK's largest circulation broadsheet (Daily Telegraph) which at the time sold over 3 times more copies per day than the second highest selling (The Times). However, they did provide Socialist Worker, Morning Star and Marxism Today.

I wrote the to the library requesting The Daily and Sunday Telegraph be provided to assist with my studies as their business pages and analysis of Financial Institutions, Capital Markets and International Finance (three of my core subjects) was frequently better than the FT. I also cited circulation figures and balance of news reporting vs other newspapers provided.

Their reply: we can't afford it, buy it in a shop.

I contacted the Telegraph and they offered to provide five free copies per day.

Passed this offer on to EUML and their response was it would be raised at the next Library Board meeting, then referred to another and another and another and eventually the General Council and a decision on whether to accept the offer may take up to two years.

Meanwhile, both Edinburgh Central Library (Labour council) and Napier College/Poly/Uni (each site's libraries) both provided it.

@DaveS, Jan 18, 2016 at 5:39 PM

Major and Blair share the blame. Major for deciding that polys should become unis, and Blair for the 50% target.

+1 Correct, nail hit on head

Jan 18, 2016 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

@Peter C, Jan 18, 2016 at 7:09 PM

When I was at school it was explained that 'O' and 'A' levels were auto-correcting over time as your grade was decided on the percentage of marks gained. Simply put, the say, ten percent of entrants gaining the highest marks were granted the top grade and so on, thus it was not possible for ever increasing numbers to gain a top grade. Indeed, the average mark for those gaining the top grade might have been, say, 90% one year and 75% another depending on the difficulty of the questions set.

That method of marking, using a bell curve, is the most accurate as (you say) it takes account of varying difficulties of questions each year, but the top x% always receive an A, the next x% a B etc. It is also how the 11 plus operates as Grammar schools want the top 20-25% each year.

Blair changed it to a score only and wanted more passes to boost pupils self-esteem. Thus, exams were dumbed down and even a grade E is now considered a pass.

Jan 18, 2016 at 8:35 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

I find the comments below the article really interesting --extremely defensive and patronising. Good on the Penquin Random House for questioning the orthodoxy.

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

basicstats

Indeed it was 1992. What also happened at that time is that the government forced colleges / universities into doing higher level work they couldn't attract the students for. The guy in charge of all Scottish post school computing assessments(Bobby Elliott) admitted to me that his students couldn't do his assessments and that they cheated. I met a class who told me they graduated without passing one legitimate exam.

I left and have been accused of being arrogant / superior snob by various 'lecturers' since. That's how insane people become in the face of a broken system.

Jan 19, 2016 at 12:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Around 1983, I received a letter from a major publishing house want to negotiate publishing a book of poetry. I had been recommended by one of their authors. I met future Booker Prize winner James Kelman for lunch once/twice a week in Paisley at that time. All he did was moan about his publishers (Jonathan Cape). He was truly fraught.

The letter was very controlling and that was before I had any dealings with them at all. I didn't reply b/c I didn't want to have to deal with some mega smart Oxford double first editor who would probably see me as a performing Glasgow word monkey. This was the Kelman situation. Both myself and Kelman had studied literature at uni (me for 1 year) so we weren't complete idiots. It's very interesting they have turned their back on Oxbridge


There is a truly wonderful scene in the equally wonderful novel 'Morvern Caller' in which a working class girl (and supposed author) meets a couple of very posh publishing graduates in a club. Minds do not meet.


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Morvern-Callar-Alan-Warner/dp/0099586118

The film is awful.


I recently spoke to university creative writing people who explained to me exactly how young writers are exploited.

Jan 19, 2016 at 2:09 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

When I went to Uni in 1961, only 6% of each age cohort attended. There was a clear distinction between university and non-university. IMHO the university sector has been expanded far beyond the point at which society and the majority of attendees benefit from it, and the quality of uni staff is often extremely low - it seems that it is very easy to get backing for trivial projects of no value to anyone. Easier to expand than to wind back, unfortunately. And the lower quality of staff, with little to merit their position, makes groupthink and conformity far more likely.

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