I’ve got a first from the University of Google
As paying customers, we all want a return on our investment. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes that should last the year, a holiday offering an unforgettable experience, or a university degree that lands us the job of our dreams, getting value for money is fundamental.
Proposals this week by the UK Government to allow the £9,000 cap on university fees to rise in line with inflation from autumn 2017 is being hotly contested and once again throws the ‘value of a degree’ under the spotlight. Are students getting value for money or are they being short-changed? Are they getting better teaching as the price continues to rise? There are growing concerns as fees rise that the number of high-priced, low-value degree courses do little to prepare students for the world of work and are often not worth the scroll they’re scribed on.
New proposals aim to help tackle the shortfall of skills in some employment sectors by opening up higher education to new ‘challenger institutions’ such as, for example, Google and Facebook. The rationale is that healthy competition helps to keep standards high in our traditional universities but it also provides students with choice and access to the skills they need for a world beyond university – something our traditional universities are often accused of not doing.
Facebook, Apple and Google would be able to award their own degrees if they too meet certain standards. And since universities are the engines of growth and social mobility, opening up higher education to more people and equipping them with the skills required to land that dream job is ultimately the aim.
But is this a step too far? Commercial companies entering the world of HE makes traditional academics very jumpy indeed. Students might buy worthless degrees from private companies that may be here today, gone tomorrow and don’t have the reputation of redbrick institutions. Will companies want to employ job applicants with a first from the University of Google? We’ll have to wait and see.