Would you like fries with your degree?

When someone mentions fast food giant McDonalds, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? A slab of animal and gooey, orange, processed cheese between two slices of cardboard bun? The infamous “golden arches”? A motorway littered with red and yellow packaging? A degree?

In 2008 McDonalds, along with companies such as Flybe and National Rail, won approval to offer A-level equivalent courses that would combine theoretical with practical learning. At the time Gordon Brown and Universities secretary John Denham were both quoted saying it was a good idea. The idea behind it was that it would enable the companies to record and recognise the skills of their employees.

Move forward to 2010 and McDonalds are now running degree level courses in Business Management for its restaurant bosses, accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University. McDonalds’ senior vice-president David Fairhurt has been quoted saying it challenges “snobbish” misconceptions about McDonalds staff. Which, all seems like a bit of an overreaction. Everyone likes to have a laugh at the stereotyped spotty faced burger flippers, as we do about nerdy IT technicians.

Whilst the idea of being able to learn whilst working seems like a good idea at first, it raises some questions. If you are a restaurant manager at McDonalds, then you undertake a McDegree, you are at the top of your game. The degree you have taken is for the job you are already doing. I can’t imagine McDonalds would want to lose their restaurant bosses to better jobs, but aren’t they over qualifying them? Would it be possible to move easily to another company after you have been firmly branded by the golden arches? Surely it would be more beneficial to open these courses to those who are not already at management level, so they are equipped to work towards it? It seems a little like McDonalds have shot themselves in the McFoot. It makes me think that this is not so much about education but about improving their public image, something McDonalds has been working hard to do in the last few years.

It also makes me wonder whether it is a good idea to even allow giant corporations to run their own courses. Allow me to get a little hysterical here – if we carry on going down this road, could we not end up in a country where primary school children are being taught that “A is for the apples in our fruit pies, B is for the 100% British beef in our burgers, C is for the chicken breast meat, we only ever use…”, in their red and yellow uniforms. From cradle to burger grill. Ok, hysteria over, but I’m sure you get my point. How far do we let it go before it verges into absurdity?


[Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fast_food_01_ebru.jpg]


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