Monday, April 18, 2016

Degrees are more necessary than ever before, but the rewards aren’t as great

Comment from Australia

HAVING a degree has become a basic prerequisite for most careers. Those without a degree are more likely to be disadvantaged in career and economic terms.

You could think of this as somewhat like mobile phone ownership. Twenty years ago, those of us without a mobile phone got by just fine — having one was a status symbol. Now, even though the phones are much, much better, having one is nothing special. And those without one will really struggle.

Yet widespread participation in higher education has implications for individuals. On the one hand, the more people who have a degree, the more this becomes a basic expectation for employers. On the other hand, the more having a degree becomes a basic expectation, the less “special” it is and the lower the premium, in terms of pay, that can be gained.

We can see this clearly in shifts in graduate starting salaries. Since the mid-1970s, median annual starting salaries for bachelor degree graduates have deteriorated steadily.

In 1977, when a minority of people completed high school, let alone went to university, graduates of engineering, education, computer science, social work, veterinary science and agricultural science all had starting salaries above male average weekly earnings (MAWE) — the long-term benchmark for salary levels in Australia.

In 2011, only graduates of dentistry, optometry and earth sciences had salaries above MAWE. Even medicine, perhaps the most sought-after degree, has taken a tumble, from a starting salary of 138.5 per cent of MAWE in 1977 to 91.4 per cent in 2011.

This diminution in monetary value of having a degree corresponds to steep rises in participation in higher education over the same period.

Three decades ago, only around 40 per cent of young people completed high school (46 per cent in 1985, for example). Today, around the same proportion complete a university degree.

What all this shows is that we are experiencing credential creep. The level of educational credential needed to stand out from the crowd has risen steeply. This is compellingly demonstrated by the steep increases in participation in the highest degree levels.

Australian universities graduated nearly 8000 doctorates (PhDs and professional doctoral degrees) in 2013, more than double the number graduating in 1999.

Of course, higher education is about much more than the piece of paper received at the end.

Remarkably, in the face of such steep increases in participation, graduates’ satisfaction with their experience at university is extremely high. It has remained high over the past decade, at well over 90 per cent. Similarly, more than half of Australia’s universities rank in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities top 500.

Data such as this flies in the face of anecdotal concerns about a decline in the quality of higher education in Australia.


Universities today enrol an exceptionally diverse community of students, of varying social, academic and cultural backgrounds. That this has been achieved without plummeting satisfaction levels or widespread loss of institutional standings — despite static or declining public funding — is remarkable.

But these increases in participation and diversity create social tensions.

Australian tertiary education is now characterised by a lack of clear purpose. This stems from policymakers’ failure to conceptualise the tertiary education landscape and the role of the institutions that comprise it, as well as the lack of any instrumental view of objectives based on need.

It has become unclear what differentiates the vocational, education and training (VET) sector from the university sector and, in turn, from private tertiary education providers. Enabling, bachelor and sometimes postgraduate-level education is available from all three kinds of institution.

Despite this, funding and regulation of VET and higher education are undertaken by state and federal governments respectively. The regulation of private, international and postgraduate coursework education has been developed ad hoc rather than planned.

The result is a series of policy and legislative artefacts formed on the hop, rather than a coherent and systematised sector serving clear societal needs.


Having a degree is no longer a quality status signal in itself. What counts now is what institution? What course? What extra-curricular activities?

The more ubiquitous holding a degree becomes, the more we will see status signals and classing structures strengthening their place within the higher education system, with a more nuanced differentiation of the credential as capital.

This raises important questions about social equity.

Today, young people are pressured to go to university even if they may not be particularly interested in scholarly pursuits.

Many end up in institutions or courses that are unsuited to them, despite their ability, for selection measures remain tightly correlated with social class.

Large employers (banks and the like) no longer focus their recruitment on school leavers and train them up. Now they recruit university graduates and complain that they do not have the required skills. Similarly, students forgo earning while they are learning, and the costs of gaining a qualification are high.

Pressing inequalities in early education and schooling that lead to inevitable inequalities at the tertiary level; credential creep that is pushing all the way to the PhD; increasing stratification in the status of institutions, disciplines and modes of study — these are the contemporary frontiers for equity in Australian tertiary education.

We need a new conceptualisation of the purpose of tertiary and higher education, of training, of skills. And it needs to be supported by policy and funding mechanisms that recognise new realities rather than perpetuating old stereotypes.


Finally, There Are Some Young People Standing Up to the PC Left

The situation on college campuses has spun out of control. At America's elite universities, our supposed best and brightest have had their minds poisoned by a brand of left-wing pabulum that is so toxic that the mere use of terms or characters that might offend someone, somewhere, sometime is enough to send them into a catatonic state. Where colleges were once an open forum for the exchange of ideas and rational debate, they're now pockets of safe spaces where adult toddlers can retreat any time their hard left worldview is challenged. It's a disaster, and it threatens the very intellectual stability of our nation.

One group is sick of it, and they're taking action:

On Freedom Day, April 13th, Young Americans for Liberty launches the Fight for Free Speech campaign, a national movement committed to ending unconstitutional, restrictive speech codes and combatting threats to Free Speech on college and university campuses, by hosting more than 340 coordinated events nationwide.

C.J. Sailor, YAL’s Director of Free Speech said of the program, “College campuses are under threat from authoritarian voices that only look to stomp out ideas and viewpoints. Our Fight for Free Speech campaign is the largest coordinated attempt to combat these threats and encourage the healthy, free flow of ideas.”

The Fight for Free Speech campaign will run from April 13th through April 20th. During that time there will be more than 340 events in all 50 states. At these events, YAL chapters will host sneak-peek screenings of Can We Take a Joke?, starring comedians Adam Carolla, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and Penn Jillette. The film is set to release later this year. Participating campuses include Clemson University, University of California - Berkeley, Auburn University, Morehouse College, University of Georgia, Temple University, Ithaca College, American University, Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania, and many more.

The film gained distribution this month from Samuel Goldwyn Films, the production house behind The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and other recent hit productions. Recently news about the documentary has been featured in Reason Magazine, The Interrobang, Variety, and the Federalist. The Federalist titled their piece on the film, “Go Watch Can We Take A Joke?” and called it, “Required viewing by everyone in this country.” It premiered to a sold-out crowd in November at the IFC Center in New York and has since been featured at several film festivals including the Sun Valley Film Festival.

Along with organizing screenings of Can We Take a Joke?, YAL chapters are strategically reforming campus policies across the country to respect Free Speech rights. Dozens of reforms are occurring right now in coordination with legal groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Education (FIRE).
Young Americans for Liberty grew out of Texas congressman Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Since then, the organization has grown to nearly 600 chapters nationwide. Their statement of principles reads:

We are the Young Americans for Liberty. We recognize the natural rights of life, liberty, and property set forth by our Founding Fathers. Our country was created to protect the freedoms of the individual and be directed by We the People.

We recognize that freedom requires responsibility, and therefore we hold ourselves to a high standard of character and conduct. Integrity motivates our action. Principle defines our outlook towards government. Peace and prosperity drive our ambitions towards our countrymen.

We inherit a corrupt, coercive world that has lost respect for voluntary action. Our government has failed and dragged our country into moral decay. The political class dominates the agenda with a violent, callous, controlling grip. For this we do not stand.

We welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians who trust in the creed we set forth.
There's no question that college campuses are in trouble, but are they too far gone? We think not. The radical left-wing ideology preached on college campuses tends to fold like a cheap suit when it comes up against the demands of the real world. Still, it remains incredibly dangerous tonic for impressionable young minds, especially when left to grow unchecked. We salute Young Americans for Liberty, and hope they're successful in their quest to restore free speech on college campuses.


80,000 British children may miss out on their first choice of primary school: Crisis intensifies following baby boom fuelled by migration

Unprecedented numbers of children – up to 80,000 – are expected to miss out on their preferred primary schools this year as the national places crisis intensifies.

A baby boom fuelled by migration has left many local authorities at breaking point – and the most over-populated won't be able to offer some families a single place.

Experts said the problem could get worse as councils lose powers to create new places because more schools are becoming academies, which are free from local authority control.

They also warned of over-crowding in classes and poor facilities as schools struggle to keep pace with the rising birth rate.

On Monday, more than 600,000 children are due to receive their primary school allocation on what is known as National Offer Day.

A Daily Mail survey of councils suggests up to one in seven children will miss out on their first choice in some areas, while one in 20 may get none of their preferences.

Around 20,000 families are expected to miss out on all of their choices, while several thousand are likely to be offered no place.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: 'The Government misjudged the issue and is desperately trying to catch up with the rising birth rate.

'The situation is not helped by the fact that while local authorities are responsible for securing sufficient places, they have neither the power to open new schools nor decide admissions to the growing number of primary academies.

'In short, parents are less likely to get the school they want, and, if they do, the class is more likely to be crowded and the classroom temporary.'

According to the Mail's survey, 13 per cent of applicants have missed out on their first choice in Hull, with 5 per cent getting none of their choices. The city's most oversubscribed school is Gillshill Primary, with 245 first-choice applications for just 60 places.

Last year, applications in England rose from 623,526 to 636,279, with 12 per cent missing out on their first choice school and 3 per cent missing out on all of their choices.

Yesterday, research revealed that competition for places is so fierce that even the worst schools are becoming difficult to get into.

According to the FindASchool website, the difference in average catchment areas between schools in London with 'outstanding' and 'requires improvement' Ofsted ratings has more than halved since 2010.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Despite rising pupil numbers, 95.9 per cent of parents in England received an offer at one of their top three preferred primary schools last year. We have spent £5billion creating places since 2010, with over 100,000 primary places added in 2014/15 alone.'


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