Volume 10, Issue 4
Last week, Vicki Thompson, CEO of the prestigious Group of Eight university coalition (read: lobby group) told a group of reporters that “university is not for everyone”.
She pointed to the 47,000 teaching graduates that are looking for the jobs of the currently employed 50,000 teachers in NSW. An interesting figure as usually, the go to stat is the 15,000 law grads versus a job market only five times that size.
But who is to blame for this glut, not just in the legal market, but in all markets?
The bottleneck we face today can be traced back to a time when many in my year were deaf to the world, 2011. Or as it is colloquially known to those in my class: year 12. In 2011 parliament nixed a cap on university placements for all courses barring medicine.
Thus we moved to a “demand driven model” as opposed to a model which is partly the whim of governments, partly the will of students to apply. That is not to say the government was domineering. For a long time, student demand had long allowed for placements to expand, provided there were seats on which to place bums.
Moreover, to squarely blame the government ignores how government is supposed to work: as a representation of the people's will. And in this case, I'd argue the people whispering in the ear of politicians was the Go8. Fittingly, overall university placements grew 17% across the board the following year.
Most universities opened their doors and fittingly, their bank accounts. Immediately, we saw dropout rates increase and the graduate glut, explained at the time as a run off of the GFC, began.
In the following years it has only become worse. As the University of Melbourne, led by the Law School, justifies the American model of higher fees and lower education outcomes in the undergraduate degrees via sheer popularity, other universities follow suit. More and more universities open up to the JD system, which implicitly devalues their bachelor degree counterparts. If this were not the case, there would be nothing to justify doing the postgraduate course which covers the same material at a higher fee and a higher degree of difficulty.
Thompson also points to employers and their ridiculous requirements of employment. Here, I feel her assessment is correct. Employers, even in law, complain that graduates are not leaving appropriately skilled, despite the fact that most employers would have gone through the exact same university system we have, if that, thus not having any of the supposedly prerequisite skills.
The Go8 feels it can combat the glut by deregulating university fees. However, this is opposed to Thompson's prior point that students feel (evinced by employer's job posting) they MUST have a degree.
The Go8 see the arbitrage, and they want to profit. There is nothing wrong with this, in a purely economic sense. Morally, however, Vicki Thompson begins to look like a certain Shakespearean lady: previously urging the goals of her patronage and now obsessively washing her hands.
In saying that “university is not for everyone” the CEO of the Group of Eight expresses a wish that all of her coalition have but few articulate: that other universities die on the branch. That an actual elite is brought into Australia, funnelled through education, mitigated by cash.
To encourage a lack of tertiary education is to go against a wealth of research which proves that a better educated population leads to a stronger, more durable economy; that people who receive tertiary education are more politically astute; and that education leads to a reduction of crime in a population.
Nick Parry-Jones is a second-year JD student
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