i Editor's Letter: University is just the start


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The Independent Online


A depressingly clear trend emerges from 300+ iWriters entries. Many who tackled ‘do our young study the right subjects and work hard enough?’ revealed an alarming dissatisfaction with what you are doing: choice of course, its content, dearth of timetabled study sessions, lack of intellectual stimulation. Hanging over all this is your debt, and the inevitable question: is it worth it?

That said, UCAS has revealed more people have applied to go to university than last year. So, what’s going on? The answer is:  ‘the economy, stupid’. Never have students been made more aware of the disconnect between needing a degree, studying for it, and the chances of landing a job upon graduation. Many of you reported early encounters with potential employers who both demand a degree as a given and want ‘relevant experience’.

It was not just the predictable drama student who was wondering what he was going to do, but the linguist, theologian and English student. We didn’t hear too much from students studying vocational degrees (engineering? medicine?) but then, you lot don’t want to become journalists.

As someone who failed 28 years ago to switch from English to something ‘more vocational’,  I know this pressure is not new. But it was incomparably less intense in the 80s. What remains the same is the need to view your academic course as just a starting point. It is what you do in and around your degree that counts - for example, editing the student newspaper. The challenge is to use the University of Exeter as the University of Life.