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Don’t shout at the telly: University, what is it good for?


Don't shout at the telly: University, what is it good for?

In this on the sofa discussion with Professor of Education Dennis Hayes, a group of students worry about: standards; getting their money’s worth; job prospects on graduation; putting non university options on an equal footing and debt. Professor Hayes argues university is not retail therapy, although a therapeutic culture has degraded the pursuit of knowledge. He suggests frugality is futile and tells us that while you don’t need a degree to be a postman, a postman is also a human being and everyone can benefit from the best possible university education.

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David Wilkins said:

Very good discussion I will keep this site in my favorites.

All the best


David Wilkins said:

Dennis Hayes I have seen your view of University Education and I agree with most of what you have said.
University is a training ground for the minds of future builders of the nation and society. It must be an open forum so that views can be challenged without fear of physical harm being brought to bear on those for or against. Thus it is within the ethos of post-modern European thought for democratic debate to account for minority opinions.
I for instance believe in open boarders within the EU and North America because we have post modern societies however in other parts of the world this approach would not work for historical and current ethic and social tensions. Because I hold this view I doubt it would be popular in some people’s mind’s yet I still believe in global equality and democracy as strongly as I believe in a national society and social democracy. This view is centralist though its description does not fit neatly into the current left right or
multi-cultural view, why because life is more complicated than seeing life through a prism of one view. We must see the entirety of the context of a subject.
This is what I learned from life before University but I would hope those in University would learn this contextual view as it would do much to increase rational debate and so help this nation, our homeland and our relations with each other as a people. It would also help us achieve a true social democracy where there is a balance between liberty and equality.

Vik said:

Professor Dennis Hayes is spot on when he argues that more and more now university is a therapeutic experience. I mean public debates on hard issues are now stopped just in case students can’t cope or it may upset people! You know in certain UK universities the National Union of Students offer support to students encouraging them to eat more healthily by growing and cooking their own vegetables! A representative says they want to get students to think about what they eat! how about thinking about subjects, content, politics, ideas – creating new ideas! His right – university should make your brain hurt!

Joanne said:

I agree that university seems to have turned into the easy option for school-leavers – many people seem to just fall into going to university, because their friends are doing the same or because they don’t know what else to do. Staying in education is always a safe option, due to the familiarity of the system and also because academic achievement is so highly praised in our society. I don’t think that university should be the default option for school-leavers – university is not job training, in fact most degrees aren’t at all vocational. Many recent graduates have found themselves lacking the practical experience necessary for employment immediately after university. I have regularly questioned my own decision to do a non-vocational degree, but ultimately I don’t regret my decision – personally I feel like my degree did teach me to think in an original way, although I do agree with Dennis that it is very easy to gain a university degree without any independent or original thought whatsoever. As with any aspect of life, there are positive, enlightening elements to be drawn from the experience, even if many people do seem to overlook these.

fxtina said:

About 5 years ago, I asked myself that same question nearly everyday before eventually applying for uni. And I even still question, what is the point of going to university, unless it’s for a degree in something like pharmaceuticals or law, a degree that could actually benefit your career and future? I can understand that “everyone can benefit from the best possible university education”, but why study for 3 maybe 4 years in, lets say graphic design for example, graduate with honours (yay for you) spend all your time looking for a job with some graphic design company, only to be repeatedly rejected because you lack experience. (Baring in mind that you need to pay off student loans) so in order to make money, you end up working as an administrator or in Sainsbury’s…Very interesting discussion (I’m a media student by the way)

Krystle said:

I completely disagree with the argument from Hayes about university preventing students from having a voice, challenging, and questioning things. University education opens your mind up to so many different topics and discussions that you would never learn about or have if you just went on from secondary education to start working. And within those classrooms while learning those subjects, we are given the opportunity to go home and research more about the given subject, and return to the lecturer with questions based off of our own findings. University is intended for people who recognize the value of education. Those who intend to party their way through and not pick up a single book to read, are not people who should be taken seriously no matter what they are involved in.

rubina said:

Great topic choice for discussion and an excellent group of opinions to debate it.
Hayes notion of the ‘Thereputic University’ is not entirely accurate. Universities are still great hubs of intelligent discussion, lively debate and even believe it or not independent thought! However, he does raise interesting issues about the value of education and our attitudes towards it.
Extremely accurate comments that university for many is seen as a natural progression and therefore not a choice. As an institution, a money making one at that, university must be approached with a mind to challenge and also a desire to learn. While independent research requires a certain level of self motivation, lecturers need to start engaging with their students as individuals, challenge their ideas and inspire them. University is entirely what you make it and emphasis should be placed on an individual attitude to education. Hayes severely underestimates the student body and even more worringly addresses them as a coherent whole. Today, a standard university population is so incredibly diverse that his comments cannot apply to all and fundamentally; everyone is at university for a different reason. Family obligation, desire to learn or sheer boredom, let the students go to university, they will reap what they sow. Maybe more education should be provided at a secondary school age, informing the younger minds about the potential pros and cons of university and reevaluating the current notion that university is the respected, middle class and correct way forward to a better future.

Baqarah said:

This is a really hot topic right now with the impending government cuts in education and the resultant student demonstrations. I think Professor Hayes, refreshingly, is onto something. He’s absolutely right when he says just get over your student debts, frugality is not going to make your education better nor should an argument for better education be made on the basis of ‘value for money’. The job of lecturers should not be to make education and learning easier for you, their job is as the Professor says ‘to make your brain hurt’, to make you think and tell you when you’re just wrong.

bento said:

Interesting topic and discussion.
University is a personal experience where you have time, freedom and resources to develop your ideas and interests.
University, what is good for? I believe that university is what you make of it.

joe without shoes said:

this is a very good discussion, as a university student, this question “what is university good for?” is a question that lingers in the back of my mind. It’s a confusing time in my life, am i on the right path? am i getting the most out of this? what am i doing here? am i just wasting my time? In the end these questions of doubt push me further. University is what you make it. there are great professors and endless amounts of resources at your disposal. take advantage. Someone said that students today are just “lazy” and expect knowledge to be poured into their brain. wait… what was i saying? drink more!

Katja said:

University, what is it good for? is a very important and good question as sometimes you get the feeling that universities forget about the actual use of university. As Dennis Hayes argues it is a place that presume knowledge without fear and favour. That means person should be able to go there if you want to go and nobody should be favoured for what he is or where he comes from. Universities are places where you learn something and get animated for the interest in knowledge and the interest in new things as students who really want to study want to be challenge and learn something further.

Sally said:

From whats said later in the discussionis is the current focus on cuts, tuition fees and student debt wrong then? Shouldn’t we be getting our rocks off about these things or am I missing something?

Jo Terson said:

Is this therapy culture thing in universities a very British thing or is it true in most countries? Would love to know what anyone thinks as I’m thinking of studying abroad – somewhere cheaper than the UK. Also its all very well to say live with the debt but doesn’t it make things very difficult later in life if you want to get morgage or something?

Julie J said:

Excellent discussion and highly informative. When you are studying and in the thick of things it is hard to step back and see the big picture especially the professor’s points on the theraputic nature of university life but we can’t just generalise from our own individual personal experience – we miss a trick when we do. I find it really worrying that lecturers seem increasingly to have a pastoral brief and can’t tell students when they are just wrong or their work is rubbish. Student unions seem to be an even worse waste of space and spend more time morally policing student lives than campaigning for anything useful. We need more academic high fliers and defintely won’t get them through counselling.

Jane Wyckman said:

I agree with Marisa below and Professor Hayes comment about debt is startling – but I think he has a point, frugality is pretty pointless.

Marisa said:

Dennis Hayes by applying the term McDonaldization to higher education is provoking a deliberate debate on the purpose of Universities for the current generations. He believes that universities are currently having a therapeutic purpose, which is degrading the pursuit of knowledge, and which should be the main objective of going to university. As Hayes says, university used to be a place to think the unthinkable and say the unsayable, but now is the opposite, students worry about breaking any of the universities policies, rather than developing independent critical thinking and being challenged. This is why I believe that space for critical thought should be developed and expanded throughout the British universities.

Furthermore, with the top-up fees debate, education is not being valued for its own sake, as universities are becoming a ‘service’ provider in which the student ‘consumer’ can measure the value of their ‘investment’ in quantifiable terms: from the ‘quality’ of the education they receive (if they are getting their money’s worth), to the ‘real world’ financial pay-off they can look forward to in the long term (the type of job they get at the end of their degree). So are people going to University for the wrong reasons? Personally I decided to study a subject I was interested in at University, and I wouldn’t put a price on the knowledge I acquired throughout the 3 years, however the fact that I am in debt does worry me, which is why I defend the view that tuition fees should be scrapped so that everyone can benefit from the best possible university education for free.