The word ‘student’ has lost all its respect over the last thirty years or so. It has now become synonymous with ‘young person’, rather than with someone who has dedicated their time to study in the pursuit of academia. Indeed, if you ask anyone over the age of thirty-five what they associate with the young people of this country, most will reply with terms like loutish behaviour, ASBOs, binge drinking and so on. There was a time when student was a far more prestigious title. I spoke to an elderly man from my town recently about this and he told me that when he was young there was one young man he knew who went to university, and because of it he was respected by everyone around. Back then it meant something.
Nowadays university has become about going out, drinking and doing as little work as possible. It has generally become an excuse for young people to do whatever they want and live without supervision. When did that happen? When was it ok for me to sit in a lecture and think “absolutely no way am I doing that” when handed the reading list for the semester? When was it ok for me to have to plan exit routes out of lecture theatres because I’m really that hung over?
Another problem is that the university world has been flooded. Whether you think it’s a good or a bad thing, far more people go to university today than ever before. But this means that the value of having a degree has become diluted, since so many people have one. This is only worsened by the fact that the job market is abysmal, due to the current economic climate, meaning that there are more qualified people trying for very few qualification based jobs. So where does that leave us? One young man I know graduated from Edinburgh University a few years ago with a 2,1 in Theology, and now he works behind a bar. What’s the point? The point used to be to make yourself qualified for better jobs, but because of recession that’s now not the case. If there’s no prestige in the title, if there are no jobs available at the end and if all you do while at study is drink and watch TV (and work a little bit) then there is no point. As a student, it leaves you wondering whether all this was worth the money you’ve spent on it, and the inevitable debt you’ll be in as soon as it’s finished.
Unfortunately there’s no real way of solving this issue, apart from making university a far more difficult working environment. But with so many people at university now any decision or change made will cause uproar across the country, so it seems like these institutions will have to remain as stagnant as they are now. We just have to hope this doesn’t get any worse. I for one don’t want to waste any more of my money.