Degrees of usefulness

I’ve noticed that the underside of cherished colleagues’ collars heats up at the mention of certain ‘degree’ courses, with particular reference to more practical subjects formerly confined to apprenticeships and polytechnic curricula.

Personally I don’t get offended by conferring on them the title of ‘degree’, any more than I mind a crowd of cardinals calling themselves a ‘college’. Nobody is fooled into believing they have suddenly acquired much-sought-after academic status – which is after all reserved for many subjects which are practically useless, like my own field of classical languages, literature and history.

However the claims of business studies departments to recognition as serious university faculties are fully justified. In the days before the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey became famous, big business taught its own people the ropes with a mixture of outside courses and on-the-job training. Rowntrees tried to harness my classical education with such efforts. The scientists who were my contemporaries had a head-start – to the extent that they at least understood the vocabulary they now employed at work.

So the MBA was born – with in-depth modules on economics, finance, strategy and much more; and when the value of the MBA became apparent to everyone, schools started Business Studies at A level (it’s now the biggest single subject studied). And if you think it’s a Mickey Mouse subject, read the text books and get a surprise. Even if the students don’t become captains of industry, they acquire an understanding of accountancy and business practice which equips them for daily life. Those that join big companies will have gone on to do the MBA course – just to get a job. Sitting by Nellie to learn management is no longer an option.

Author: Janus

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8 thoughts on “Degrees of usefulness”

  1. I remember reading an article some time ago which listed some of the bankers and CEOs who had acquired MBAs. They included Fred the Shred and sundry other disasters. Seems like these characters felt their MBA had given them godlike powers, though that’s probably not totally the fault of the degree course. Now it appears the world has more MBAs than it knows what to do with, lots of institutions having jumped on the bandwagon.

  2. Sheona, yes, that would be like condemning English because Jack the Ripper spoke it! 🙂

  3. So learning for learning’s sake doesn’t seem to be terribly fashionable these days, Janus. I must admit, I think life used to be a great deal less complicated, but having to fork out a considerable amount of money, might well focus one’s mind on the choice of degree course. It makes sense to find out what the employment prospects are, so you reap some reward. Is education just a commodity?

    I know nothing about MBAs or the like, but I suppose that the acid test is does the acquisition of such make one more employable these days.

    I was speaking to some one recently whose daughter had recently graduated in Equine Studies. She is working as a groom and I cannot in all honesty see much career progression for the young lady.

  4. No, Arrers, old-fashioned academic education at degree-level doesn’t open doors except within the confines of the discipline concerned: teaching or research. Employers want people with skills other than the ability to reason. It’s a dog-eat-dog world as never before – so maybe schools should stimulate the competitive urge after all!

  5. Janus, some universities are actually building in an element of business studies into other disciplines.
    Swansea likes engineering to be a 4 year course, not 3.
    The first 2years are core to all engineers and the last 2 more specialist according to discipline. However in year 4 there is a mandatory course for all in business studies including all your above studies.
    I do note that anyone with a 2.2 and above from there is snapped up and none left unemployed. That has been in place for 15 years to my knowledge. I would expect this to be replicated elsewhere by now.

  6. It’s probably difficult for people who have not been involved in big biz to understand its complexities. Decisions are not made off the cuff but involve extremely convoluted processes requiring ‘technical’ skills across several diciplines.

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