SHOULD UNHAPPY GRADUATES BE ABLE TO SUE UNIVERSITIES – This story, surprisingly, doesn’t involve the Bachelor of Feminist Interpretative Dance:
Pok Wong, who also goes by the name Fiona Pok, graduated from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK with a degree in international business strategy in 2013.
But the 29-year-old now plans to sue the university for $106,000 over a breach of contract, because she believes the degree “does not play a role to help secure a rewarding job with prospects”.
Ms Wong, who is originally from Hong Kong, said she moved to the UK to study at ARU’s Lord Ashcroft International Business School in Cambridge after being impressed by the institution’s prospectus.
She said the university’s claims it offered “quality education and prospect of employment after graduation” were fraudulent.
“The prospectus convinced me that the university is really impressive,” she told The Telegraph.
While I have some sympathy, it strikes me that students, particularly mature-age ones like Ms Pok, should be able to do some more comprehensive due diligence before committing two years of one’s life as well as a substantial amount of one’s money towards a tertiary degree – certainly more than just reading the institution’s prospectus and being impressed by it. There are independent university rankings around, there are graduate outcomes surveys, there are other ways to ascertain the reputation of an institution based on an assessment by education professionals as well as past and present students. The government supervision over standards across the tertiary sector varies from country to country, but it tends to be reasonably robust in places like the UK and Australia, which have some of the best overall university systems in the world. You’re certainly more likely to get sucked in by a diploma mill offering you hairdressing qualification than a genuine university which offers graduate and postgraduate degrees.
Sadly, as the vogue for and accessibility to tertiary education increases across the developed world, more and more students will indeed be finding they are ending up with Mickey Mouse degrees and a lot of student debt. This is partly because some degrees are of their very nature pretty Mickey Mouse (unless you are planning a career in the academia or as an radical activist), partly because there is a growing oversupply of graduates in certain fields and disciplines, and partly because the quality of education is dropping in the pursuit of more bums on the lecture hall seats (all the top high school graduates already generally go to uni; if you want more uni students you need to target the middling or even the below average ranks – just think about your old high school classmates and the fact that some from amongst the bottom half of your class are now attending universities). We are becoming more and more overcredentialed but at the same time unqualified, unprepared, and often mismatched with the jobs market out there.