UNIVERSITY qualifications are in danger of becoming completely worthless following decisions made by global companies to remove degree requirements for most jobs, a former lecturer has warned.
Kellogg’s announced it will remove the need for people to have a degree to join the company as part of its drive to become more inclusive by removing barriers to employment, which follows similar stances in recent times from global giants such as Google and General Motors.
According to Michael Knowles, an ex-Google Digital Skills Trainer and former Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Newcastle University, the changes will further devalue degrees at a time when universities are already shortchanging students.
Michael, who founded award-winning Search Engine Marketing agency ROAR Digital Marketing in 2016, left higher education when he became disheartened by the feeling that students were leaving university without the knowledge one would expect to have gained after three or four years of studying – especially at such a high financial cost.
Michael said: “Working in numerous universities across the country, it used to frustrate me to witness students being underserved because their course material was so outdated, and they were ultimately leaving university without the basic skills and commercial mindset necessary to enter their chosen industry.
“They were simply not receiving the highest level of education they deserved because they were being taught material which was either far too generic or theory-based, resulting in them being severely underprepared for full-time employment in either in-house or agency teams.
“In such a fast moving industry as digital marketing, many learnings can be out of date within three years, so for universities to be teaching theory which is sometimes 10 years old, shows how badly let down they are.
“Reading that Kellogg’s has become the latest to remove degree requirements is a further blow for universities, and now is the time for them to adapt to ensure that students are getting value for money when choosing to continue their education. With companies now deciding you don’t need a degree to get the top jobs, this will only discourage people from going to university, especially when you consider the growing costs of the courses.
“This is in no way a dig at individual universities or their wonderful staff who try their very best with what resources are made available to them. In fact some of my thoughts are actually based on some of what I’ve seen working with amazing former colleagues who basically run the show for their respective institutions, but are being overstretched and not being given adequate resources to deliver great education.
“There needs to be serious, and immediate steps taken by central Government to better fund and support them to prevent degrees becoming completely worthless.”
To avoid becoming completely ‘out of touch’, Michael states that universities need to engage more with industry to build stronger long-term relationships and bridge the gap in the relevancy of what is being taught during lectures and seminars.
By providing young people with more real world experiences in challenging industry-based scenarios, students will enter the workplace with more knowledge of how their industry functions, said Michael.
“Universities need to look outside of the classroom and the curriculum to get more input from businesses and senior leaders who will be able to share key aspects of the industry, reducing the high emphasis currently placed on theory,” he said.
“Allowing students to engage with live issues within business will teach them lessons they will never forget, and it’s these moments you can never replicate by using a hypothetical example as part of a lecture.
“It’s about building mutually beneficial relationships with businesses to ensure they’re getting something out of the partnership too, but fundamentally it’ll make such a significant difference to the lives and expectations of ambitious students ready to enter the world of work.”
Michael is supportive of alternative routes into employment, such as apprenticeships and traineeships, and identified these as really useful ways of young people gaining real industry experience.
He also stated that businesses welcoming great people of varying education and backgrounds was a good thing in general as it is often the case that those prepared to work hard and have real passion for what they do can overcome gaps in education and prove just as valuable to the business as somebody ‘better qualified’.
His warning is directed more at the higher education sector which risks alienating a whole generation of students if it doesn’t adapt its practices.
Michael said: “There are various other excellent routes into employment, such as apprenticeships, so I am fully aware that a university degree isn’t the only way for young people to get a great job. But degrees need to represent good value for the extremely high tuition fees students are now required to pay.
“A university degree was designed to allow graduates to get ahead in employment with employers always desiring the qualification, and it is my opinion that their university studies should be challenging to give the student a strong sense of pride that their hard work has translated into good grades, that are actually worth something.”
ROAR Digital Marketing, which elevates and accelerates business growth through strategic and data-driven search engine marketing, has itself grown significantly in recent years.