An Edmonton teacher was suspended for giving students a mark of zero on assignments they failed to hand in. In Quebec, tens of thousands take to the streets to keep tuition down. In job interviews across the country, university education is a baseline expectation for any professional position.
What these have in common is the devaluation of university credentials – propelled, in part, by inflation of marks in secondary schools – and the egalitarian expectation that university should be available to all.
Universities remain an important part of a knowledge-based economy and a society that aspires to being fair and free. But educators, employers and parents need to turn the tide on the idea that any student capable of tying his shoes must go to university.
From certificate programs to apprenticeships, volunteering to online and self-learning, a vast array of education options is opening up.
And many, if not most, of the professional disciplines taught at universities, from medicine to dentistry, computer programming to nutrition, are either recent additions that can lay no claim to being the traditional purview of universities, or sequestered in colleges that could exist independent of the broader university community.
Universities remain vital sources of new research and the premier institutions for training future PhDs. That’s unlikely to change. But for other vocations, other options have become, or should become, preferred.
A bachelor of arts does nothing to prepare most arts graduates for their careers. The idea that they’re learning how to learn could be made obsolete. Many students, if fostered from a young age with a dynamic, entrepreneurial attitude towards learning, would discover that on their own. The remainder probably won’t learn that lesson regardless of how many lectures they sleep through. As for a bachelor of science, most profession-bound students would be better served by a professional-stream college. If a BSc. is just about personal interest and self-improvement, read a book.
Almost all the knowledge humanity has accumulated is just a mouse click away. We need to teach our young people how to access and vet it, yes, but that doesn’t require four years in an ivy-covered hall.