Getting a first class degree is no longer top priority

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By Maia Miller-Lewis, Deputy Online Comment Editor

In 2018, having an undergraduate degrees no longer make you stand out from the masses. They must be stripped back to academia.

Paying a £9,250 a year just in fees, a university education has become a commodity. No longer is it about academic endeavour or the chance to fully devote yourself to a subject you have a burning passion for. Now, it is just a piece of paper that is simultaneously insignificant and imperative to your future success.

Approaching a prospective employer, if you do not have a degree, it is more than likely that their first question will be, why?

With the university industry so saturated by choice, it can seem pointless not to take the opportunity to come and study, even if you are not really sure what you want to read or why you are doing a degree at all.

The recent spate of universities dolling out unconditional offers encapsulate this mind-set, with the number rising from 2,985 to 67,915 between 2013 and 2018. Some are even bribing student to come to their institutions. For example, Portsmouth University offered a £1,000 scholarship as a ‘carrot’, to encourage students to take up unconditional places.

But what are we actually getting out of our time here? The unfortunate truth is that an undergraduate degree, unless it is in medicine, no longer counts for much. You are not distinguished by your 2:1 in English because there are hundreds, if not thousands of other candidates with the same badge all scrabbling for the same opportunities.

The unfortunate truth is that an undergraduate degree, unless it is in medicine, no longer counts for much

Naturally, an argument could be made to say that attending one of the prestigious Russell Group institutes does give you a certain edge. The reality is that you are still competing with candidates not only from your own school, but from 35 others. 18,005 Bristol undergraduates are going head to head with 27,900 at Manchester, 21,700 at Birmingham - it goes on.

Increasingly, students are having to look for alternative ways to mark themselves out from the crowd. Many are going onto study master's degrees to further specialise; the more affluent ones taking up unpaid internships.

The sad truth of all of this is that university is becoming less and less about what you study within an exciting, intellectually driven environment. More than ever, it is about engineering your time to manufacture a list of achievements enabling you to present the best possible personal image and highlight your aptitude for juggling.

university is becoming less and less about what you study within an exciting, intellectually driven environment

Of course, none of this is to say that a first-class honours degree is not a great achievement that deserves recognition and respect. But within modern university culture, is it more important than the fact that you wrote for the newspaper, played rugby, set up a charitable society and were involved with the Students’ Union? Which connections did you make, how did you network? Was all the work worth it if the person who got a low 2:1 is going straight into an entry level position at Goldman Sachs while you are moving back in with your parents, all because he was a member of every possible banking society and you were devoted to understanding command economics?

It seems like there is a constant scramble to appear as though you are actively involved in as many things as possible, have your hand in an impossible number of pies.

I am not necessarily saying this is a bad thing. If you are doing a film degree being involved with the IN: Film society is certainly a benefit. But, it should not take precedence over your studies- they should be your priority.

The purpose of university needs to be stripped back to basics, re-orientated back towards the love of learning, not the aim of earning.

Featured image: Unsplash/Inaki del Olmo

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