For many of us a degree remains invaluable
Kenny Wastell - Arts London News' Managing editor
A recent ruling in the Supreme Court means graduates may now find it harder to compete for jobs with more experienced professionals.
The case involving Terry Homer, an ex-employee of West Yorkshire Police, centred on whether it was fair to require the then-62-year-old – due for retirement three years later – to undertake a four-year law qualification before being eligible for a promotion. The implication is that his employers indirectly favoured younger employees with qualifications on their side.
According to a study for the Institute for Social and Economic Research the percentage of the population who undertake a degree has increased by 8.2 per cent in the last 20 years. It stands to reason that the younger generation represents an increasingly academically qualified workforce.
The idea that Mr Homer’s case could have implications for students currently undertaking degrees may come as somewhat of a shock to many.
Means to an end
For most of us studying is a means to an end. The question we must now ask ourselves is what this ‘end’ actually is – a piece of paper or an enhanced skill set?
As a 31-year-old undergraduate student – notice how I skilfully avoided using the word ‘mature’ – I would be lying if I said that age discrimination when seeking employment had never crossed my mind.
How will I, as a graduate in his early 30s, fair in the entry-level job market against my younger counterparts? Yet at 29 I decided I wanted a change of career and with little journalistic experience the most obvious option was to create the alter ego of Grandpa Fresher.
The FdA programme – which is slowly being phased out due to changes in funding – not only presented me with the opportunity to get plenty of practical experience through work placements but also offered much of the academic training offered on BA courses.
Had I not returned to education I would have been entering a new industry with no understanding of the legal and the – regularly scoffed at – ethical requirements of being a professional journalist. For many of us a degree remains invaluable.
The change that increased UK tuition fees will have on student numbers in the long-term has yet to be fully played out. Regardless of the ideological questions at hand, we may yet unwittingly become a unique generation of highly qualified and highly employable professionals.
This ruling should serve as a shot in the arm to those of us who may be more driven in our industry of choice. University holidays are lengthy and there is plenty of time for us to seek industry experience.
The most persistent amongst us will take advantage of the spare time and develop new skills and contacts while undertaking industry placements. It will be these students who will become the most employable graduates.