Are we witnessing, albeit gradually, the demise of the academic degree? Perhaps demise is too big a word to use for the human ‘license’ to individual prosperity (read: degree). But there is undoubtedly a change-of-guard conversation here. The degree is no longer the route to personal success and respect that it has been for hundreds of years.
The degree seems to have lost the plot and its place taken by systems that can shape individual talent into a viable and productive skill.
All of a sudden – many Z-generation kids are shunning the traditional ‘bums on seats’ approach to college education. These kids are interested in doing stuff that they are passionate about and in a fun and practical setting. This generation loves doing what they like and having fun doing so. The rigid, structured and constricted university environment doesn’t augur well for the whiz kid
The traditional academic degree model may not be suited to a generation that is talent driven – and knowledge-oversupplied. Even more worrying for the universities and parents, employers are increasingly choosing to train their labour on the job, than at universities where the students don’t always graduate with the right skills. Apparently, the employers understand better than the universities the skills they need to run firms in increasingly complex and fast-moving business environments.
There is one thing we are sure of at the Effectiveness lab – the Z-generation kid won’t without questioning, add to the statistic of students at universities, investing time to get qualifications regardless of relevance to employers and themselves. Not effective at all!
These whiz kids are increasingly opting for stuff they have a personal interest in and makes them happy – and they want that done standing and running around – socializing on the multitude of technology platforms available to them – and not in university lecture rooms
The whiz kid may not always need a university to learn and prosper after all. Shocking as it may sound, especially to my kindred in Nakabugu village – Uganda, the university educated kid is seeking employment from their non-university educated peer. A type of peer that is ‘talent-educated,’ hands-on, inquisitive and digital savvy
If in doubt – conduct research on the number of graduates being churned out by universities in your country this year – or even five years ago – and find out how many have viable jobs. In our part of the world, we are facing a NEETs crisis – and the underlying cause is: the education system, and in this case, university education
What is broken?
It appears to us that until recently, universities firmly held on to the belief that the world would continue to change to fit what the universities had to offer as opposed to the universities and the degrees changing to fit the new world.
Under pressure to keep their businesses afloat, employers, always market savvy, are re-defining who holds the key to knowledge and its relevance – it’s not a university monopoly. Not anymore. Struggling to re-adjust to the reality that the right to knowledge-definition and ownership is no longer the monopoly of academic institutions, but a partnership of equals between industry and academics (increasingly unequal in favour of the industry), universities are inadvertently starting a revolution in higher education.
Universities, especially in our part of the world, are finding it hard to let go of the ‘right’ to own knowledge and how it’s supplied to the rest of us. Yet, the dynamics driving knowledge demand and supply have changed. Knowledge governance, supply, and demand are now boundaryless. No wonder, the shunning of the still boxed-in traditional academic degree is on the increase
Disruptions abound in the academic-industry – and its most important product, the degree, is under threat. Example: for a long time, the order of learning was that one attained a degree first and then went on to do an internship or industrial training. Today, via apprenticeships and other skilling models, it’s industrial training coming first and university education last, if ever at all.
Isn’t it true that the degree is dying on its feet? What are the implications for my Nakabugu village kindred?
See you next week