The Necessity of University Education

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Such linear thinking: finish high school, go to university, get a degree. Success, right? Not so. This path may be what parents -- and society -- want us to believe. The truth is that academia is not for everyone. Every generation of students has come to believe a perpetuated myth: a degree is required to get a good job and guarantee personal success. In fact, although education is crucial for everyone, an academic education is not. Universities are institutions that provide an academic certification, not a professional designation or qualification, and certainly not job-specific skills. For those who set realistic career goals that require academic certification, then university becomes an essential stepping stone towards that goal. But labor markets also require individuals without academic training and with other levels of practical knowledge, skills and abilities.

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The reality is that many individuals are better suited for such alternative pathways: direct workplace entry, vocational-technical college apprenticeships, career or military training. These are alternative viable pathways to develop the diverse skills and abilities required in today’s labor market. The wise choice of pathways requires careful self-assessment to determine the pathway that best suits each individual. Personality or character types vary widely. Research confirms a relationship between personality type and academic success. Not everyone can be an open-minded intellectually curious human being. Nor can everyone be an organized responsible conscientious student. There are those with fixed mindsets who will apply limited effort to their self-improvement. They cannot turn their struggles into learning experiences. In contrast, those with a growth mindset have the drive to improve, accepting challenges and failures as learning opportunities. They possess the mental capacity to overcome the many obstacles confronted in university.

So they will maintain that desire to continuously learn, improve and adapt. Such attributes are a good match for university bound students because academic commitment requires tenacity and perseverance. Those lacking the grit and internal motivation that accompanies a growth mindset will not remain resilient in the face of challenges -- definitely not a good fit for university. Fortunately a growth mindset can be developed. But are all willing to adapt the attitude that challenge is an opportunity to learn? And some may never adopt the view that there is learning in failure. Learning styles are distinctly personal and some are just better suited to learn in a different way. Traditional classroom settings using a teacher-centered approach or lecture hall for large groups are not for everyone. For instance, most people learn better by doing rather than by listening.

This uniqueness means we don’t all process information the same way. So fortunately there are -- as there should be -- alternative pathways available that may better suit a particular learning style. For those students whose style is not compatible with an academic teaching style, loss of interest will quickly manifest itself in poor academic performance. Indeed so many now enter university with limited academic readiness. Some students will not have the level of literacy and numeracy skills required to succeed in an academic program. Those lacking these communication skills will struggle with reading, writing, listening and speaking. Such skills are required to be an independent learner, capable of setting goals and seeking personal achievement. Independent learning is a hallmark of higher education.

The challenges for some are huge: heavier workloads and busier schedules, shorter deadlines, family commitments and time constraints, and the financial pressures of high tuition prices and student debt. All are valid reasons that a university degree is not for everyone. The university-for-all mentality often forgets that these circumstances can create insurmountable barriers for many. This means university can be mentally, emotionally and physically draining for the unprepared. In such cases, it would be more efficient for them to use their time, energy and money in a less-academic pathway.

Although evidence confirms that a degree does increase job satisfaction, opportunities and earning prospects, so can alternative less-academic pathways which are more suitable for most students. One can still survive in today's world without a degree. The fact is that many jobs do not require a university degree anyway. And you do not need a university degree to find or guarantee success. Instead, success is really finding the pathway that will best help you achieve your goals and live your passions. University education is not (and should not) be for everyone -- and when there comes a fork in the road, society cannot direct all students in one direction, all down the same path.

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