Opinion | Are English universities really setting up their students with skills for the “real world”?

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Drishti Rangani, Third Year, Law

The English University System is renowned for being one of the most prestigious and accomplished education systems in the world. Is this still the case in a post-pandemic 21st century?

Typically, the average English university student will take a three year course focused on one subject and will end up with a degree in that area. One of the biggest problems with the English education system is the focus on subject specialisation.

It is highly unnatural for teenagers to want to stay on the same path that they chose at 18: this mindset creates stagnant, un-evolving young adults. As a result of English university degrees being so focused, they are also too short to equip teenagers for the real world, especially when compared to the four year courses in the United States and Scotland.

University is not merely a stepping stone to a grad job, but an opportunity to develop the appropriate social skills, flexibility and maturity that life in the ‘real world’ requires.

The MENA Universities Summit in Jeddah in 2018 highlighted the key strategies needed to develop university and higher education teaching. A key theme was that subject specialisation is a focus that needs to be changed.

“Disciplinary excellence” as a strategy was highlighted to no longer be as beneficial to students in a growing, innovative and diverse job market as it once was.

It is undoubtedly time to re-evaluate the benefits of a niche, specific career pathway

Take the United States - which arguably has the most credited education system in the world. Most students go into their first years having some knowledge of the path they wish to take, however, students only have to declare a major a year or two after.

Most first years have to take a range of subjects, including sciences as well as humanities. Arguably, a teenager at 18 is unsure as to which city they want to study in, let alone the career path they wish to take on for the rest of their life.

Plus, not to mention the plethora of problem solving, and critical thinking skills that come along with degrees that offer breadth.

It is increasingly evident that with dynamic political situations, the university system must become adaptable and flexible

Personally, as someone who was overwhelmed with the narrow scope of English university degrees, which naturally limits the career options that follow, I succumbed to the ‘LLB’ – a law degree.

I made this decision because of the variety of career pathways that a law student can follow, admittedly at the price of a challenging and draining degree.

This not to say that I regret my decision, but it’s a decision I likely wouldn’t have made if there were other avenues for me.

It is highly unnatural for teenagers to want to stay on the same path that they chose at 18

Now more than ever, teenagers are choosing different career pathways. More students want to work in professions with more contact hours and professions that involve acts of service. In 2021, the Medical Schools Council published a report which showed that Medical Applications were up 20.9% compared to the year before.

It is increasingly evident that with dynamic political situations, the university system must become adaptable and flexible. Contrastingly, degrees which rely solely on online platforms (such as the humanities) may become less popular as a result of the lack of human contact and personalised tutoring.

Many of the added benefits of the university experience – from societies to sports and socials - have been stripped as a result of Covid. Without a flexible degree, it would be no surprise if English university students develop into robotic, inflexible individuals.

It is undoubtedly time to re-evaluate the benefits of a niche, specific career pathway and accept that it current prevents teenagers from changing careers whilst placing too much pressure on their degree.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Brett Jordan


What are your thoughts on English universities in a post-Covid world? Let us know!

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