Universities are dying and Covid19 may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back, but is by no means the cause. Further (higher) education is a multi-billion dollar industry that globally either produces highly intelligent graduates or highly educated fools.
The reasons for this anomaly is down to the fundamental building blocks of education and begins far earlier than the time of so called Higher Education. From primary (elementary for you folks across the pond) education system is the beginning point of teaching a human how to think for themselves and hopefully how to become a valuable and productive member of society. This is often easier said than done due to a lack of funding, limited resources and the constraints put on teachers to teach a set curriculum.
Of course, setting a mandated curriculum can be advantageous and does ensure that at the basic skills for communication in both oral and written form are instilled into the student population. The issue can arise however, that teachers are hampered from being flexible in dealing with their students needs. Sadly, this is not sufficient to provide suitable literacy to all.
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (1992, 2003 USA) found that of the total American population a shocking 14% were found to have “below basic” literacy with an additional 29% classified as “basic” in reading ability. It should come as no surprise that 70% of the American prison population registers as having a “fourth grade” level of literacy.
In Australia the situation is less dire with a 99% literacy rate (the UK also stands at 99%). This may come down to a greater and more prolific “book culture” whereby people find reading to be an enjoyable pastime along with the great abundance of libraries as well as bookshops around the country ( and also Melbourne’s terrible weather which makes staying inside and reading a book a pretty good option).
One cannot hope to build a society of thinking and clear minded individuals without training children from a young age on how to read and write. That is the foundation of all education. When children have these skills they can be taught to interact with their world and explore in manners appropriate to their age and level of cognitive function.
There is state education, which in many counties is free of charge and mandatory until at least a primary level if not secondary level. Students mature and challenge their understanding of the world by forming beliefs through interactions, trial and error as well as experimentation. When they have reached secondary level (high school) they should be beginning to approach some level of adult cognitive function and perception although lacking experience in “real world application” of the theoretical knowledge they have learned through 12 years of formal education.
Giving students at this university entrance age the benefit of the doubt, we can safely assume that most have a level of perceptive power that will allow them to digest a variety of viewpoints and therefore take the next step in the theoretical and practical exploration of not only the world around them but also their own existence.
Here is where universities play a role. Many young people, filled with passion, desire to enter university in order to expand their educational horizons. University education is expensive even at a bachelors level (although wise choices can mean that it doesn’t have to be). This is a massive financial investment which is aimed at creating an “educational nest egg” for the future and an attempt at being more competitive in the job market especially for higher end career paths. That was what university was for……..but that is seemingly in the past.
The National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) released statistics gathered from the periods :1993–94 and 2006–07 with the results for 2018–19 being projected using available data for expected graduations.
Counter to many radical ideologue notions of patriarchal dominance and oppression, evidence shows that females are graduating at greater rates than males. This clearly shows that for females at least, the education system has been successful (it does make one wonder whether or not those who desire “equality of outcome” would be concerned that the proportion is not 50/50, the question is rhetorical of course).
The high price and steadily decomposing quality of university higher education means that many young people are simply starting to become weary of paying exorbitant prices to institutions who do not fulfil their professed duty of providing an array of educational opportunities. While many subjects such as the hard sciences are still attracting the same core individual personality types, the Liberal Arts have practically eviscerated themselves in their ritualistic preening to radical ideological vitriol. As a social scientist, I find it greatly disturbing that Liberal Arts, the home of critique in the past, has now become the home of generation snowflake with the cognitive maturity and stamina of a land-bound blob-fish (Psychrolutes Marcidus).
Universities in Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA have become havens for radical ideologues wishing to spread their pseudo-academic drivel and essentially defrauding and indoctrinating their students with not only fallacies but also emotionally and mentally self destructive ideas. These so called academics pander to a crowd by stating what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, or worse simply feed them enough propaganda to stay in line and then mark them down or harass them if they show the slightest dissent( we can see the Canadian example of Lindsay Shepherd).
Hence, more and more young people are turning to Technical Colleges / Polytechnics (TAFE as we call them in Australia which stands for Technical And Further Education). TAFE provides significantly lower tuition fees, give practical skills and many offer university level degrees with an integrated practical or apprenticeship as part of the course and for the majority of courses contain none of the radical ideologue drivel that would be found in a similar university course.
Thus, the phenomenon takes place where TAFE students are more competitive, less in debt and generally more content with their education than many university students. Technical Colleges often provide courses in accord with the market demand as can be seen from the graph of apprenticeships below.
This expansion of technical education is likely to continue to grow as numerous industries see the advantage of taking in new workers with demonstrated practical skills.
In Korea, there has been a significant increase in the desirability of technical college courses with many students focusing on studying shorter periods (2 or 3 years) or otherwise taking on bachelors courses in technical colleges such as nursing with a highly practical core that involves industry workplace assessment. This would naturally mean that an engineering student or computer programming student would have a more favourable chance of obtaining concrete and long-term work positions than the student who chose to study interpretive feminist crochet.
As the gangrene of university censorship continues to spread globally, one should expect that universities will start haemorrhaging students with intelligence, as these students come to see the growing futility and inflation of university education. This along with the counter-productive safe spaces and DIE policies (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity …….PS: Thanks Dr. Gad Saad for the acronym) which fail, in gargantuan manner, to provide a safer environment but serve only to coddle the intellectually infantile who should never have entered university in the first place.
If this were not enough, the potential death blow to universities comes with the enforcement of Orwellian “diversity statements” for all professors and lecturers. Previously, criteria such as these were limited to the already corrupted schools of Liberal Arts and their kin but had expanded to include the hard sciences, from biology to physics. This is the beginning of a sustained crusade on science and scientific method by removing funding from professors and scientists who do not “conform”. Professors who dare voice their opinions are not safe, as we can see from the example of Dr. Gad Saad (himself a minority) who was recently denied researching funding because in essence he would not bow to the totalitarian “diversity” policies. This merely illustrates that even those in tenure positions are far from being protected. In another example Dr. Jordan Peterson had his invitation to Cambridge rescinded because of the clamouring of radical ideologues. Such pettiness continues daily.
yet another Canadian example, in one fell swoop, not only are universities emasculated of their academic powers but colleges are also being encouraged to self-destruct through the implementation of this diversity policy. In reality, the covered factors have no impact on an individuals ability to do a job or to study a subject and lowering the bar or bending rules for the sake of inclusive rhetoric will have negative effects.
This “everyone is a winner” and “everyone gets a prize for participation” attitude may work to motivate young children but is seriously out of place in academia, especially where graduates will perform potentially dangerous work. Would you like an “almost good enough neurosurgeon”? Or perhaps “barely qualified nuclear engineer”? The only qualifying factors for these jobs should be competence and skills, not a diversity badge given out like savoury snacks at a party.
As this anti-science discourse becomes louder, and more and more professors are penalized for having an original thought, the greater and steadier the “academic migration” from universities to technical colleges will become. If rapid action is not taken to protect lecturers’, professors’ and students’ freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry, then the age of the university will truly end and free speech will be extinguished.
Alaric Naudé is a professor specialising in communication, business, education, linguistics and social science. He is widely recognised as having a great face for radio.