(Part 1 of a collaborative blog – for link to part 2 scroll down to end)
The degree has been devalued. Graduates unemployment levels are rising, and employers are complaining that graduates just don’t have the skills to contribute to industry. Within this flawed system, non-enthused students are able to coast by, working hard during exam periods in order to memorize the material necessary to pass exams, and then forgetting it all once it has served this shallow purpose. What qualities or skills have these students learned that would be of any value or desire to a business or an employer?
The degree needs to change. People argue that going to university is about more than learning; they say it’s about the lifestyle, independence, making new friends. That’s like playing golf just so you can wear a pair of silly trousers. You don’t need to go to university to achieve any of these things. The fact that many students leave university with 2:2 level degrees or above whilst maintaining the kind of lifestyle students are renowned for tells its own story about how hard it is to get a degree.
Our economy is stagnant, as are our schools, universities and the graduates they produce. If we want to produce graduates worth employing, capable of innovation and enterprise, we need to re-assess university education. A degree should be rigorous and demanding. It should be impossible to attain a degree unless you have engaged consistently with the course. University should be a challenging place where people learn, not passively through attending lectures and rote memorization, but through active participation, discussion, debate, collaboration and creation.
So how do we improve the current university model?
Lectures and lecture theatres exist because they used to be the best way to deliver knowledge. Now, information is widely available, and can be accessed electronically. Lecture-style material could be more efficiently provided online, and could also be organized in ways that incorporate learning principles that have been proven to work, such as dual code and multimedia effects, organization effects, desirable difficulties, and cognitive disequilibrium. (25 Principles of Learning).
By abandoning the constraints of the lecture theatre, core course material could be better integrated with relevant online material such as Ted Talks, YouTube videos, the latest research, and non-assessed online tests which would allow students to assess their progress and identify gaps in knowledge without fear of failure. Non-assessed tests are important because fear of failure can be demotivating to students (Caraway et al., 2003), while in the absence of fear students are more likely to feel confident in their ability to learn. (Ryan & Patrick, 2001). Providing material in this way would require students to be active learners, promoting long-term retention, and deeper understanding.
To read the second part of the manifesto, click here