De-grad-ation of research

Can we re-engineer the research industry so we don't need to hire graduates any more? This came from a sparkling conversation with a friend yesterday morning coving a range of topics so interesting and often so provocative I thought I would leave their name out of it in case I ruffle feathers.

Here's the logic. Research is getting easier to do – we need more younger people. To run online communities – to have organisational and social skills. We don't need half so many boffins. The cost of hiring graduates is rising. Not only because they emerge from college loaded with debt. But because tertiary education is still so hopelessly nonvocational that most of them are unemployable when they get out. So they spend to the middle of their twenties sorting themselves out and finding jobs.  For which they then need inflated salaries.  They then want to be promoted quickly and steadily – they can be at board level by their early 30s. With 30 years of a career left to run for which they are overqualified and overpaid.

And as I said most junior research jobs don't need that much intellectual rigour. If we set up an apprenticeship and trained researchers on the job – they wouldn't have the debt levels. They could progress more steadily – they would earn for an additional 7-8 years doing a job for which they are eminently qualified and which we could defend from outsourcing to India or wherever.

The great thing about universities deciding how much they can get away with charging students for the privilege of studying is that it makes you ask question about what precisely they do deliver. I didn't pay for my degree – I don't regret it a bit – it took 4 years of my life. It needn't have taken that long. What's with all these terms and vacations. Nothing vocational about that. Academia is funding itself from undergraduate students and not giving much back in return for 3 years. All of what researchers need to know can be delivered through training. How about dispensing with a degree altogether? And provide a provocative wide ranging education which is immediately applicable. On the job. For a fraction of the cost. And without needing to give the pyramid of academia a livelihood. 

Interesting argument. How would you respond?






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