Thursday 20 August 2015

Dr Cristina Devecchi

​Dr Cristina Devecchi, Associate Professor in Education at the University of Northampton, disagrees that money being invested in education is being squandered and that graduate over qualification has not yet reached ‘saturation point’.

“By the time August comes around, it is reassuring to see stories in the media about A-level and GCSE results, as well as related stories about the situation of our economy and the impact of our education system.

One such story was recently published in the Guardian declaring that UK graduates are wasting their degrees in lower-skills jobs. The article adds to the findings of a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development titled ‘Over-qualification and skills mismatch in the graduate labour market’.

The Guardian article proceeds with all sort of linguistic twist and turns which, when read together, seem hardly to fit and rather contradictory. Graduates are both wasting their time and money, but also ‘squeezing lower qualified workers out of jobs’. If this was not enough, graduate skills hardly improve productivity.

I wonder if this was much of a ‘new’ story after all. It was because it brings to the fore a number of dilemmas and inconsistencies around the notion of skills, and the contribution that universities can make. At the heart of the dilemma is the perennial crisis in ‘lower-skills’ jobs, and, directly linked to it, the lack of vocational training. Such a simple, and yet problematic distinction between higher and lower skills perpetuates the traditional view of universities as aloof, distant, and detached institutions, inhabiting an ivory tower and contributing to society a workforce which does not fit the economic demand. ​

Far from it, such view is becoming progressively out-dated. Universities are increasingly working in what John Goddard called a quadrupled helix; that is, educating graduates through teaching and research, but able to thrive both in the world of business and to have a social impact. Far from wasting their time and stealing jobs, future graduates would be a flexible and engaged workforce. Universities, by rethinking how they operate are actually well-positioned to rise to the challenge. We have not reached the ‘saturation point’ yet and we can still have too much of a good thing after all.”

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