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Does Your Degree Matter?
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Hod



Joined: 28 Apr 2003
Posts: 978
Location: Home

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I studied engineering at university. It was incredibly tough, and I look back at my university years with grim memories of six hours a day minimum of lectures, having to then study at least five hours a day to somehow get my head around the topics taught and then doing my coursework. Come exam time, it was weeks and weeks of sleeping four hours a night and sitting exams every day, sometimes twice a day, for three weeks.

A few years later, I took the CELTA and was more than surprised to find my course mates getting more and more stressed as the four weeks went on. Some were emotional wrecks upon week 3, but I was bored and went to the pub every other night. I had study skills.

Thereís an argument here for the amount of effort and study skills required in studying an arts degree, e.g. languages, history, art or classics, versus a science or engineering subject. Few could argue the latter isnít trickier.

But for the UK graduates reading, Iím curious what you think about new universities. Before 1992, the UK had around fifty universities, and the entrance requirements using the UK A-level system invariable required three A-Levels at grade B or above. This still applies. However, after 1992, fifty or so polytechnics were changed into so-called university status. The entrance requirements can be found of any of these institutionís websites, but they are typically three A-Levels at grade D or above.

Donít take my word for it that these so-called new universities are below par. Twenty years after these polytechnic-*beep*-universities came into existence, many companies wonít even look at ďnew universityĒ graduates for their training schemes. I donít blame them. Whenever Iíve had issues with an underperformer, nine times out of ten they will be a graduate from a new university.

What I really donít get is now undergraduates have to pay to go to UK universities. Weíre talking £9000 a year plus living expenses. Undergraduates now can expect debts of £40000, which for me is an outrage. However, the course fees for traditional and new universities are identical. Why pay £9000 for a substandard course?
Anyway, Iíve certainly turned down people for jobs because they studied at a new university. The lesson there is donít go for second best.
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sirens of Cyprus wrote:
See what I mean? A BA in English should be mandatory. What a sad state the profession is in!

It is in Indonesia now.
Well the actual requirement is that the word "English" be somewhere in the degree name, but that's pretty close to what you want, since very few applied linguistics or education majorsóeven those who studied English grammar or instructionówill have the magic word on their diplomas, seeing as how US diplomas aren't generally designed to please petty bureaucrats in foreign countries. (My diploma doesn't even state my major; you have to look at my transcript for that, something which any domestic employer who cares about the content of my degree will do as a matter of course.)

Now a serious question: what actual benefit is there to having a B.A. in "English," besides having "English" in the name?

I was a linguistics major, but I had a good many professors in college tell me that I'm either one of the best writers they've taught, or the best they've had in years. Since I don't consider myself a particularly good writer, and since some of these were writing teachers who mostly teach English majors, the anecdotal evidence from my own college education suggests that "English" majors aren't necessarily very good at English.

Employers should be able to evaluate potential employees' own English skills: written English in applications and emails, oral English, grammar, and teaching skills in interviews. But making a blanket assumption that English majors are better at speaking or writing English than your average college student, let alone uniquely qualified to teach it, has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard.

~Q
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fractal75 wrote:
Sirens of Cyprus wrote:
See what I mean? A BA in English should be mandatory. What a sad state the profession is in!


A BA in any subject does not signify that you can teach it whatsoever.

Or that you even know it, possibly unless you're in one of the hard sciences at a technical school. I've met economics majors who don't know what "comparative advantage" is, I had international relations majors in my Arabic class who didn't know who Hosni Mubarak was (this was while he was still president of the world's largest Arab country), and I've met English majors who don't know how to use the shift key and have never heard of Evelyn Waugh.

I even had a friend who graduated in computer science student who admitted he didn't know anything about computer architecture and barely knew how to program. Of course said friend went to a liberal arts college, I imagine CS students at technical colleges get a better education.

Still, as a liberal arts graduate myself, I would make no assumptions about what any recent graduate of a liberal arts college knows in any subject. Even at the best schools it's all too easy not to learn a thing nowadays. I've met students even from Amherst and Middleton who know less about their major, from four years of intense study, than I do from casual reading.

~Q
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fractal75



Joined: 26 Oct 2012
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
We can often infer that one who possesses a BA has achieved a certain level of literacy.


Yes, but one who can't necessarily teach. I suggest you re-read.
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Jbhughes



Joined: 01 Jul 2010
Posts: 254

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hod wrote:
I studied engineering at university. It was incredibly tough, and I look back at my university years with grim memories of six hours a day minimum of lectures, having to then study at least five hours a day to somehow get my head around the topics taught and then doing my coursework. Come exam time, it was weeks and weeks of sleeping four hours a night and sitting exams every day, sometimes twice a day, for three weeks.

A few years later, I took the CELTA and was more than surprised to find my course mates getting more and more stressed as the four weeks went on. Some were emotional wrecks upon week 3, but I was bored and went to the pub every other night. I had study skills.


This is interesting. Everyone on the (4-week) CELTA course that I attended found it stressful and very intensive.

I have since met a Natural Sciences graduate from Cambridge who told me his CELTA course was as intensive as any part of his B.A had been. He's about 30, I think you're older, Hod? Another argument for uni courses getting easier? Perhaps your study skills are even better than you think!?
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fractal75



Joined: 26 Oct 2012
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jbhughes wrote:
Hod wrote:
I studied engineering at university. It was incredibly tough, and I look back at my university years with grim memories of six hours a day minimum of lectures, having to then study at least five hours a day to somehow get my head around the topics taught and then doing my coursework. Come exam time, it was weeks and weeks of sleeping four hours a night and sitting exams every day, sometimes twice a day, for three weeks.

A few years later, I took the CELTA and was more than surprised to find my course mates getting more and more stressed as the four weeks went on. Some were emotional wrecks upon week 3, but I was bored and went to the pub every other night. I had study skills.


This is interesting. Everyone on the (4-week) CELTA course that I attended found it stressful and very intensive.

I have since met a Natural Sciences graduate from Cambridge who told me his CELTA course was as intensive as any part of his B.A had been. He's about 30, I think you're older, Hod? Another argument for uni courses getting easier? Perhaps your study skills are even better than you think!?


Agreed! It was not easy! On our course, six (mostly graduates), dropped out, couldn't handle the intensity. Two others failed. Five passed out of the original 13!
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Mike_2007



Joined: 24 Apr 2007
Posts: 344
Location: Bucharest, Romania

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have taught a lot of engineers during my time. I also studied engineering at university and certainly this helped me teach them. Firstly, I was more readily able to grasp aspects of their work and therefore provide them with the language to link it all together in a coherent manner, and, secondly, I was frequently told by students who were engineers that my methods for teaching them grammar were more easily understood than other methods or on other courses.

So, given that a particular teacher has the necessary literary skills, the right personality and some form of teaching qualification, perhaps it would be true to say that different disciplines train or suit different mindsets which can then later be applied to the teaching of similarly-minded students.
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Hod



Joined: 28 Apr 2003
Posts: 978
Location: Home

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting.

With all the language-teaching research that goes on, and letís be honest most of it happening now is worthless, it would be fascinating if more research were done on the teachersí own educations and experiences before starting their teaching careers. For example, which undergraduate subject produces the more effective teachers or is previous experience in another field beneficial.

The practicalities make such a study almost but not totally impossible. If someone were to give it a try with, say, 100 teachers as a sampling group, it would be well received. Yes, there will be arguments about accuracy, studentsí subjectivity and so on, but show me any other current research without faults, big assumptions or inaccuracies.
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figshdg



Joined: 19 Sep 2012
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hod wrote:
However, the course fees for traditional and new universities are identical. Why pay £9000 for a substandard course?


Not quite. All universities can charge up to £9,000. Which universities are actually charging that amount? Take a guess. Which universities are not charging the full amount? Take a guess. Sure, that's not true for every university, but it holds true for the most part.

Quote:
Anyway, Iíve certainly turned down people for jobs because they studied at a new university. The lesson there is donít go for second best.


Damn. I guess I shouldn't apply for a job with you. What are my educational qualifications? MA (ancient), MA (new), and MPhil (red brick). I do enjoy educational snobbery.
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Denim-Maniac



Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1238

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hod wrote:


What I really donít get is now undergraduates have to pay to go to UK universities. Weíre talking £9000 a year plus living expenses. Undergraduates now can expect debts of £40000, which for me is an outrage. However, the course fees for traditional and new universities are identical. Why pay £9000 for a substandard course?
Anyway, Iíve certainly turned down people for jobs because they studied at a new university. The lesson there is donít go for second best.


My son is in his second year at a top 20 university. This year he has a total of 6 hours per week of lectures. Last year he has 7 hours per week. He is doing a vocational course alongside it as it (undergrad study) is so easy. He also continues to run his own business too as he has so much time.

New students starting his course this year have to pay £8500 for that, plus £150 a week if they live on campus.

It is one of the most shameful things I have ever seen in the UK, and I am very bitter and ashamed of it TBH.

My German colleagues within my student organisation in the UK have studied in various places throughout the EU, paying 1/6 of the cost to receive double (or more) in contact time. And if they live on campus they pay a lot less too!
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Hod



Joined: 28 Apr 2003
Posts: 978
Location: Home

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Denim-Maniac wrote:

New students starting his course this year have to pay £8500 for that, plus £150 a week if they live on campus.
It is one of the most shameful things I have ever seen in the UK, and I am very bitter and ashamed of it TBH.

Agreed, although if you check the criteria as to when and how much graduates must earn before having to start repaying student loans, Iím not sure too many loans will be paid back within the next decade or three. If I had children starting university soon, paying back the fees wouldnít be my most pressing concern. The fact that absolutely nobody pays fees up front is a good indication of how parents have done the sums. Things will have to change for reasons of sustainability, but for now, study and be damned.
figshdg wrote:
I guess I shouldn't apply for a job with you. What are my educational qualifications? MA (ancient), MA (new), and MPhil (red brick). I do enjoy educational snobbery.

Au contraire, I think you sound most respectable, and to the best of my knowledge, the term red brick is used for a number of universities in the UK which are excellent.

Far from being a snob in my case, in fact the opposite applies, I struggled painfully through my degree. I had somehow blagged my way on to the course despite average grades. Pretty much everyone Iíd studied with up until that time went on to do undergraduate studies at polytechnics aka new universities. And how they sailed through their first year whilst I was contemplating life after being booted off my course. Thankfully, I crammed and caught up, but the fact ďnew universityĒ students can have it so easy speaks volumes about the massive contrast in standards. Iíve since had so many problems with polytechnic graduates that I have to say anyone who accepts second best for the most important qualification of their life probably wonít care too much about the job they do either.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 762
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Denim-maniac,

The assumption that lies behind the contact hours is a deeply mistaken one. It is that universities are a simple extension of school, and that as at school, students should be given as much attention as possible. At university the students encounter a much more independent working style than they had while being prepared for the endless hoop-jumping at school.

University is emphatically not about spoon-feeding and hand-holding through courses, but the very opposite.It is not about maximising contact hours, but about autonomy in thinking, researching and writing.We once used to ask "What are you reading at university?". In those words lies the clue to what a university education is supposed to involve, particularly in the humanities. People who get into university change educational gear and direction on doing so. They read and attend lectures, they write essays and discuss them with their tutors and peers. To do this in a knowledgeable and intelligent way, they have to do a lot of thinking, studying and discovering, the bulk of it for themselves, because no one else can do it for them.

The more contact hours imposed on students, the less time they have to read, think and write, these being the three crucial elements of higher study. At the university where I teach, students have 2 essays of a minimum of 2,000 words to research and write each week.

Do students want to make university a mere continuation of school for the same sausage-machine purpose of churning out employees? It is bad news that students themselves are buying into this idea and wanting others to do more of their work for them, more of that spoon-feeding and hand-holding.
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Hod



Joined: 28 Apr 2003
Posts: 978
Location: Home

PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's another point I never understood about degrees in arts, humanities and such useful subjects. If you only need to attend two or three lectures a week, why not just do a correspondence course, such as the Open University, especially now students have to pay?
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 762
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hod,

The Open University now charges 5,000 GB pounds a year if you study full time =120 credits, which would take you 3 years.

If you study part-time, a foundation degree will take you 5 years (300 credits @ 60 credits a year @ 2.500 GB pounds) or an Honours degree would be 6 years (360 credits @ 60 credits a year @ 2.500 GB pounds a year)

1 credit is supposed to be 10 hours of study.

In my opinion, university education should be provided free of charge to all those suitably qualified for it, as a national investment that goes far beyond its benefit to the offices and factories of the land. Perhaps it is not surprising that bad attitudes start to flow from our no longer being prepared to pay through collective taxation for the higher education of our best and brightest.
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Hod



Joined: 28 Apr 2003
Posts: 978
Location: Home

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iím going to nail up some colours here. Why should governments pay for undergraduate-level education? To support the future economy, there is an argument for engineering and science to be supported, but many companies in these fields plough a lot of cash into universities as it is. And what about students studying media studies, sports science, fashion and textiles, etc? Are you happy for your taxes to support these courses which benefit no one at all?

In any case, there are just too many graduates nowadays, and the jobs most of them do donít by any stretch warrant a degree. If you want to bash governments, Iíll join you, but rejuvenating the economy will only come by attracting real work back into the country and not, for example, depleting the UKís manufacturing industry which has gone from thriving to non-existent in the space of twenty-five years. Churning out more media studies graduates wonít help anyone.

The repayment of fees should also not be a barrier to potential students. Firstly, you donít have to pay any fees up front. Then you will not pay back anything until your annual salary exceeds £21000. The student loan repayment website gives an example of a graduate earning £30000 having to pay £67 a month. This is not a bank buster by any means.
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