Today is the day that 18 year olds in the UK get their A Level results and this will generate a wide variety of responses. For some this will be mean momentary happiness as they prepare for university; for some there will be panic as they rush to find an alternative course that will accept them and for others there will be the despair of wondering what they will do now.
But underlying all of this is a real concern as to whether or not it matters! For the whole process underpins a system that, if you make it to the degree stage, will produce an average starting salary of about £4000 per annum less than the UK average wage. Even the high flyers will only manage to start at about £3000 more than the average wage.
Even worse than this, those jobs will start with a significant debt that will need to be paid and repayments will probably kick in just when you want to get married, own a house and start a family.
But probably the biggest concern is that the whole charade is predicated on the idea that this is the main route to ultimate success. So why does the establishment continue to predicate this idea and seek to manipulate the system to maintain it? After all, it has long since been proven that degrees are not the route to economic success.
Why are universities sitting with nearly 30,000 course places unfilled today and why are they now offering inducements such as guaranteed accommodation to fill those places? Why is the government examinations body massaging the grade levels to ensure that top grades continue to rebuff the normal distribution curve beloved of statisticians?
The cynical answer is that they are driven by self-interest. Universities need students for funding in order to pay the exorbitant salaries that their staffs now receive. How else could you afford to pay someone so much more for running a university than we pay the prime minister for running a whole country?
Equally, the civil servants that oversee examinations are themselves products of the system and success for them is improvement of results year on year until everyone gets an A and is considered brilliant.
This whole education system was predicated on an orderly system that produced uniformly trained individuals at the bottom end of the work ladder up to the university-qualified leaders. Today about a third of the world’s billionaires have no degree and the IT world is dominated by university dropouts.
Recently I launched two entrepreneurship awards for my old university that focused on the creative arts. At the first year of judging I was struck by what the participants conveyed.
These were people with a clear creative ability, with a good business brain, but also with a social conscience that required them to produce creative solutions that had a social benefit. These were not people that wanted to slavishly follow a pre-set employment path determined by parents and careers teachers.
I do not believe that many of the young people of today want to enter the study sausage machine. I also suspect that most parents that encourage their children down this route are ill informed about the future that their children are preparing for. As for the universities and civil servants, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are ignorant of the ’real’ world that the young people will live in.
But unless parents, universities and civil servants wake up to the fact that the fast changing world needs creativity and less clones, August next year will just see another rearrangement of the seats on the Titanic.