2 March, 2016

What value, education?

I heard this interview on RNZ’s Sunday programme a couple of weeks ago about learning for earning; in other words the relationship between our education and income. The interviewee is Hugh Lauder, professor of Education and Political Economy at Bath University. Hugh’s sound bite expressed his concern with ‘the broken promises of education, jobs and incomes’. He talked of the “talent” (read: elite) that is now being sought in our digital world and how they are expected to think compared with the rest of us whos jobs are routinised, largely as a result of technology. He called this digital Taylorism.

This got me thinking about our values when it comes to higher education.

Within the last few years I’ve seen people who’ve been in the workforce for years returning to uni to do PhDs. Academics have said to them ‘there very likely won’t be uni jobs for you, are you sure you want to bother?’

What is valuable about a university degree then – is it simply in order to work in higher education?

In a UNZ media release. A Degree is a smart investment (15 Feb 2016) there’s a Top 10 list: Reasons why a degree is a smart investment. Investment is meant as entirely financial in this article, with only one mention of personal gain from the investment you make to do higher education. It’s the 10th on the list: If you are interested in university study, there isn’t really a bad option. Follow your heart and the evidence says you are likely to end up personally and economically better off. No doubt they would have put parenthetical brackets around the (personally and), given they were primarily focused on monetary benefits. Which! whoa! is what every article I’ve located is about.

What I’ve learned

I returned to study at 49 to do a Masters after working in diverse roles around the world. While living and working overseas, I learned what a distinct advantage a higher education was to opening doors, to being exposed to different thinking and conversations that often run counter to the norm. You learn (or should) how to value what you think, and learn (ideally) how to defend that. You broaden your mind. These are academic values, not economic. I learned that having a higher education is a valuable asset. Personally.

And I myself have gained more personally than economically from my Masters degree and continuing study – and I would do it all again.


Salient, Vol. 78 Issue 25, 11 October 2015.

So what if you don’t earn a million more…

…in your lifetime than if you hadn’t done a degree? Is that really all that matters?  If so, Donald Trump is the perfect choice.

Let’s value our education …

…for the essence of learning, and let’s value our personal growth that comes from learning as our greatest professional attribute. Let’s concentrate on the value of learning for learning.

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