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Boys lead the way

“Boys lead slump in university applicants”, says the Times, like it’s a bad thing.

The first sign that young people are turning their backs on university educa­tion is expected next week when more than a quarter of a million A-level pupils get their results. The exodus is being led by young men, whose applications to university are at their lowest for three years.

The head of Ucas, the universities admissions service, said the number of young people winning degree course places on August 16 is expected to be “in the order of 2.5% lower” than last year.

Some of that is due to a demographic dip in the number of 18-year-olds — but universities are also being hit by a slump in older and part-time students. The total number of UK applications is down by 3.4% on last year.

Experts said Tony Blair’s vision of ever greater numbers of teen­agers going to university looks outdated, with more questioning the value of £9,250-a-year degrees.

Clare Marchant, head of Ucas, said a degree was “usually worthwhile” but added that “university is not for everybody”. She said rates of 60%-70% of people going to university “would be the entirely wrong thing to do”.

The real Clare Marchant was stolen away by the elves and replaced by a changeling. There is no other explanation for the head of UCAS being so sensible. Blair’s great push to get half our young people to go to university has turned out as badly as state-mandated changes in society usually do. Practically everyone is worse off.

Those who would not have gone to university under a saner system, but do go under our system, find that when almost half of all young people have a degree they are nothing special. More than a third of recent UK graduates regret going to university. Regret it or not, if they ever earn over the threshold they will still have to pay for it. While it is true that the terms of repayment of student loans are generous and many will never have to pay them back, the mental burden of debt is still present. No wonder so many partly-educated but, er, not outstandingly bright young people support Jeremy Corbyn: they fell for his ambiguously phrased line that he would “deal with” their debt.

The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degrees* goes down because they are now lumped in with those who spent three years studying Clownology or Gender Studies.

Worst of all, those who never did and never will go to university have to pay to benefit a group who on average are richer than they are. The non-graduates suffer other harms as well: many jobs that once would have been open to anyone with two A-Levels are now reserved for those with degrees. When I was a young teacher many of my working-class colleagues had come into the profession in just this way. It seemed to me that they were some of the most effective teachers, often more grounded than their graduate equivalents. Careers such as journalism and nursing that could be learned on the job were an avenue for social mobility that has now been blocked.

One last thing, which I think matters more than we (by which I mean the generally highly educated readers of this blog) realise, is that having each cohort of youth split down the middle into a top half and a bottom half is painful for those who don’t make the grade. When under fifteen percent of young people went to university, as was the case until around 1990, not going to university was the norm. No one thought anything of it. It still surprises me that the political grouping who once filled the Third Programme with their complaints about how cruel and divisive the Eleven-plus was felt no qualms about putting half the nation into the slow stream.

The boys have evidently cottoned on earlier than their sisters. It could be that they are smarter, or it could be that British universities show signs of following the US example and becoming places where males are scorned and treated unfairly.

*Oxford Bloody University and I still cannot decide whether it should be “degree” or “degrees”. At least if I manage to reduce everyone else in the country to the status of illiterate serfs, as is my true aim with this post, the wretches will be in no position to correct my grammar.

42 comments to Boys lead the way

  • JadedLibertarian

    I have an honours degree, a master’s degree and a PhD too. I have a job teaching at a university.

    I home educate my children and have told them that I don’t mind if they don’t go to university. Indeed I’ve told them that they’re basically not allowed to go to Uni to study something like my field (psychology) unless they can provide a really, really good arguement for doing so. Read into all this what you will.

    If they must go to Uni, I’m steering them towards your classical STEM. My 10 year old son is obsessed with sea creatures so I may not be able to stop him studying marine biology. There’s still something to be said for studying something because you love it, I suppose.

    What I absolutely won’t tolerate is my kids going to Uni because “that’s what you do when you’re 18”.

    I’d prefer they pursue apprenticeships or set up their own businesses.

  • APL

    “The exodus is being led by young men, whose applications to university are at their lowest for three years.”

    Credential-ism! Men, on the whole don’t care for credentials that are worthless. And they are not too slow to realise a worthless credential that puts you £25,000 or so in debt is worse than worthless, it’s a liability.

  • Jon

    Surely it’s degrees- as ‘their’ is plural? I can’t remember all the grammatical terms (I was at English primary school in the 80s when grammar wasn’t taught (which is why I think my generation is so bad at languages)) but if it was ‘her’ it would definitely be degree, whereas ‘their’ feels like it needs a plural.

    Also usefully disproved the notion I’m highly educated, Natalie!

  • CharlieL

    From my experience with 5 sons, 2 of which have degrees (mechanical engineering, computer science), it appears earning ability and life satisfaction are not tethered to education level. They are all swimming well, but one of them (in heavy construction, non-union) earns more than the 2 with degrees, and seems to enjoy his life more. Dunno if that kind of opportunity is available across the pond, but suppose it is.

    That figure of 9,250 pounds per year seems like a bargain over here, though.

  • Phil B

    I applied for a job (via a recruitment agency) and didn’t even get a phone call, let alone an interview. I decided to chase the recruitment agency up as the job specification could have been written around me and my skills/experience.

    I asked for feedback – bearing in mind I am/was a technical author with a degree in engineering – and was told my CV was “too technical” and the ditz couldn’t understand it. I explained that any hiring manager would want to know my technical skills and experience, hence the CV. I politely enquired what her degree subject was. She had a qualification that required a dissertation on 19th Century Latin American Lesbian Poetry.

    I dunno who was thinking that they had wasted their time at University, she or I. Just think, I could have had a job as a recruitment consultant for engineering firms if I had studied 19th Century Latin American Lesbian Poetry. At least my CV wouldn’t have been too technical …

  • Sam Duncan

    Blair’s great push to get half our young people to go to university has turned out as badly as …

    … predicted by everyone outside the political-media bubble?

    … state-mandated changes in society usually do.

    Oh. Yeah, that too.

  • Jaques

    People…find…their degrees.

    Plural.

    You’re welcome.

  • patriarchal landmine

    not all males are leaders, but there sure are a lot more male leaders than female leaders.

    besides female leaders tending to be more along the lines of hillary clinton, someone no one in their right mind would ever follow.

  • George Atkisson

    Well, we all know that had it been women failing to attend university, the PC crowd would be screaming for the government to do “whatever it takes” to rescue them from this blatant Patriarchal Oppression.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degrees* goes down…”

    It should be “degrees”; it should also be “values” and “go down”.

  • JoshB

    It is arguably a grey area whether “degree” or “degrees” is grammatically correct. On the one hand, as we are discussing degrees held by multiple people, the plural “degrees” makes sense (if, for any other reason, to clarify that it is not “their” jointly held degree). On the other hand, “degree” refers to a category of thing and, therefore, can be referred to in singular form.

    Best solutions would be to rework the sentence:

    “The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degrees* goes down because they are now lumped in with those who spent three years studying Clownology or Gender Studies” … to

    “Young people who are genuinely academically inclined find that the value of the degree they hold goes down ….”

  • Stephen K

    “The real Clare Marchant was stolen away by the elves and replaced by a changeling. There is no other explanation for the head of UCAS being so sensible”
    Thanks for this, it made my morning.

  • APL

    Nor …. have I ever heard a man leaving his mates to approach a woman uttering the words, ‘Cor, she’s got a fine pair of women’s studies degrees’.

  • Pat

    The cost is routinely understated. In addition to the £9250 pa tuition there is lost earnings, at least £12000 pa at minimum wage, offset by any part time work, but increased if a higher wage is possible. With interest at 6% acrueing from the moment the necessary loan is taken out.
    As above boys are more likely to be rebels, girls more likely to be conformist. Since academic success depends more on conforming than brilliance, and since applying to university is the conformist move, expect the proportion in British universities to become like those in America.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post Natalie. And good comments people.

  • James Strong

    I would not recommend anyone to go to university unless it’s a Russell Group university and they are able and willing to work hard enough to get a 2:1.

    I got a 2:2 in the 1970s and that was OK then to get a non-scientific graduate job in the private sector.From there it was job performance that mattered.

    Things are different now; I wouldn’t get the job I got then with that same degree.

  • James Strong

    Can anyone seriously claim that a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s, or a PhD in Latin American Lesbian Poetry (offered as an example only) is equal to the same level of qualification in Physics?

    But how to deal with problems arising from that, I don’t know.

  • Natalie, you doubtless remember as well as I do the two boys, back in the 80s, who were not students at Oxford but were as socially successful in Oxford’s D&D, SF and other societies as any who were. (By pure coincidence they were, IIRC, the two in the anecdote in the second paragraph of of this old post.) One of them, when asked what he did, always replied, “I’m in sewage”. He was a useful guy to mention when asking, ‘Who will handle the drains under communism?’, since he handled them under capitalism – very definitely for the money. 🙂

    So I would add to JadedLibertarian’s advice (August 6, 2018 at 10:44 pm), the useful point that, if you can contrive to work in the right area at the right period in your life, the social benefits (up to and including dating and marrying girls with degrees, if that’s your taste – those two did) can be had without the financial cost and without being under the authority of the University SJW admin.

    You need a certain minimum: the social skill to introduce yourself and the statistical nous to know where the people you are looking for can be met in a mood to talk of their hobbies (games shops and comic shops were the places in Oxford;’s 80s). (Jaded can doubtless teach his kids this.)

    These days, of course, online degrees may mean you can be getting a (much cheaper and perhaps more valuable) education at the same time (if you want it – neither of those two seemed to lose out). But despite the wonders of live-streaming, being physically in the same town as the University is – AFAICS – still needful for the social side.

  • bobby b

    “The cost is routinely understated. In addition to the £9250 pa tuition . . . “

    That’s the tuition cost? I assumed that was the books fee. 😉

    Here in the US, eldest son started his academic career at $64,000.00 per year. (Thank goodness he wised up after a year.)

  • Eric

    The boys have evidently cottoned on earlier than their sisters. It could be that they are smarter, or it could be that British universities show signs of following the US example and becoming places where males are scorned and treated unfairly.

    In the US the amount of non-dischargeable debt puts the whole thing in stark relief.

  • Mr Ed

    Can anyone seriously claim that a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s, or a PhD in Latin American Lesbian Poetry (offered as an example only) is equal to the same level of qualification in Physics?

    They are a bit less ‘mystical’ than Physics, but not Chemistry.

  • >The real Clare Marchant was stolen away by the elves and replaced by a changeling. There is no other explanation for the head of UCAS being so sensible.

    Virtually every person who works at a British University, even the robot lefties, will now privately agree that there are too many people at Uni who just shouldn’t be there.

    >Men, on the whole don’t care for credentials that are worthless. And they are not too slow to realise a worthless credential that puts you £25,000 or so in debt is worse than worthless, it’s a liability.

    You’d think so. But it’s not really true. A small decrease in men going to Uni doesn’t make up for the fact that millions still do. Sure they generally do more worthwhile degrees, on average, than women, but the Arts faculties still have plenty of men.

    For more on modern Unis, readers are directed towards a recent University satire written by the greatest writer of our age. Extreme modesty forbids me from mentioning his name.

  • Christian Moon

    Hypothesis: The proportion of student loan debt actually recovered from women students will be somewhat lower than that recovered from men students.

    Women can expect to benefit from income transfers inside their marital (-type) relationships on a scale that men do not, and thus it is rational for them to invest in developing these relationships. They can contribute to this through participating in higher education, where the men with better earning prospects are gathered together.

    Women who succeed with this approach do not have to worry quite so much about earning at levels that will repay their student loans, and this lets the rest of us pick up the tab instead.

    Hurrah!

  • pete

    The value of good degrees is not affected by the fact that thousands of average ability youngsters now graduate in useless subjects.

    My nephew recently graduated from a good university in a useful subject and he not only got a job but his employer paid of his student debt.

    It is not hard for HR depts to discriminate between the wheat and the chaff.

  • Y. Knott

    – And as “their degree” could be taken as a simplification of “his or her degree” (which usage is backed-up by your singular sense of “value” instead of “values”), as ‘their’ so often is anymore, I’d suggest that “degree” would be quite sensible.

    – You’ll notice I said “sensible”, not “proper” – whaddoIknow anyways? 😉

  • Pyrthroes

    Any fool can talk sense. Outside, and ofttimes within, their specialties, educated fools tend to issue forth mere words, stringing syllables like dewdrops on a blade of grass.

    Education, as distinct from training, means to emerge from Schooling feeling ignorant yet curious– knowing one’s limitations, committed to learning by example, experience, ongoing study of revered forebears’ Great Conversation.

    Once over that adolescent hump, educated people formulate a philosophy of life, not for others (who care nothing) but themselves. Absent depravity or willful blindness (intellectual, moral, spiritual), memento mori favors Life and Light over darkness and death.

    Our version, covering all bases, is: “Being exists in essence as Potential– not in Being but becoming lies The Way”.
    In this we take our text from Diogenes of Oenoanda,an obscure old Epicurean: “Nothing to fear in God, nothing to fear in life; good can be attained, evil can be endured.”

  • Sam Duncan

    “That’s the tuition cost? I assumed that was the books fee.”

    The price is capped by law. This works about as well as you’d expect, but the Left still went absolutely apeshit when it was raised to that level from zero. You may remember the rioting a few years back. (It’s still zero in Scotland for all EU citizens except the English. I wish I was making this up.)

  • Rudolph Hucker

    I’ve been wondering about the “guaranteed places” phenomena. As in, get a uni place regardless of your exam results. My daughter has a guaranteed place and thinks this is wonderful.

    Well, alright, it’s her life, but … doesn’t this rig the “degree market”? And what would happen to these universities if the places were not guaranteed, to fill the places on the courses? It suggests to me that there is actually a surplus of places on courses.

    if it really was a free market, would the price of degrees start going down? Or would some uni’s start realising they didn’t have enough “customers” and start going bust?

  • Surellin

    As Jacques points out, “degrees”. Plural. This problem may be due to our awful habit of using “they” and “their” for singular people, rather than appear sexist.

  • Alan Peakall

    Even the, often tediously, bien pensant comedy team of Bird and Fortune memorably skewered the Blair 50% target for university admissions along these lines:

    This 50% target, where does it come from exactly?

    It’s a central part of our equality agenda.

    I see. Err, how does that work exactly?

    Well the 50% who go to university are equal … err … are equal … err – well they are equal … in number with the 50% who don’t.

  • Quentin

    > The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degrees*

    You want ‘values of their degrees’.

    As for young men increasingly not going to university, is that down to choice or sexism?

  • Runcie Balspune

    I started in IT 30 years ago with no degree, after around 5 years it made no difference, it was all about experience, and in IT, after 5 years what you know is worthless, had I actually done a degree it would not have covered databases or object orientated programming, both staples of modern programming.

    What is really shocking is the attitude of business to foreign IT staff, many of which might imply they’ve got a “degree” (from some non-UK “university”) but in my experience of managing a lot of them, they may as well be sixth-form students. UK based applicants to IT jobs are crippled by the requirement of a STEM degree, yet a simple FE course (C&G, BTEC, HND, etc) or some popular industry certification (MCPD, CCIE, etc) that could be covered in 2 years in lieu of KS5 would give them a way better knowledge and save a sh*tload of cash.

  • Robert

    On the grammar question. The following two sentences have different meanings:
    1) Everyone was upset because the value of their house had gone down.
    2) Everyone was upset because the value of their houses had gone down.

    In (1) each person is upset because the value of the single house they own has gone down. In (2) each person is upset because the value of the two or more houses that they own has gone down.

    Since the young people that Natalie is talking about have one degree in most cases, and two or more in at least some cases, the sentence should probably read:
    “The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degree(s) goes down…”

  • APL

    Hector Drummond: “but the Arts faculties still have plenty of men.”

    The Arts faculties are where young women are, little surprise young men would go there too.

    As are there men studying ‘women’s studies’ too. It can only be ideological fervour.

    Robert: “but in my experience of managing a lot of them, they may as well be sixth-form students. ”

    And the professional IT organisation discriminates against British IT SMEs in favour of recruiting from India, Pakistan and some other place, maybe the Maldives or some such. Professional membership in the UK is 100% more than it costs one of the nationals of these countries.

  • Eric

    Women can expect to benefit from income transfers inside their marital (-type) relationships on a scale that men do not, and thus it is rational for them to invest in developing these relationships. They can contribute to this through participating in higher education, where the men with better earning prospects are gathered together.

    That may have been true a generation or two past, but the average age of first marriage for women in the UK is now 30.6. As a group, women aren’t benefiting from attending class with good prospects.

  • Eric writes:

    That may have been true a generation or two past, but the average age of first marriage for women in the UK is now 30.6. As a group, women aren’t benefiting from attending class with good prospects.

    His first part (at least some truth a generation or two past) perhaps seems plausible.

    His second part (lack of ‘good prospects’ at university) can be clearly explained. With approaching 50% university attendance (rather than 15% of yore that some here remember), the ‘good prospects’ are too diluted to be easily found. Hence the longer search, in what many hope is (with time) an increasingly smaller pool of potential suitability.

    Further, I’m not sure that the ‘spouse hunt’ was ever more than plausible – but if it was, why argue it applied one way only. Males surely hunt out females of (somewhat) matching intellect, as much as females hunt out (somewhat) matching males. [At least towards the top end of male intellect.]

    Best regards

  • none

    “I have an honours degree, a master’s degree and a PhD too. I have a job teaching at a university.

    …unless they can provide a really, really good arguement for doing so. Read into all this what you will.”

    And you still can’t spell?

  • Much of this, at least in the States, dates to the Griggs vs Duke Power decision in 1971 when employers were barred from using IQ tests in screening employee applicants. This resulted in the use of college degrees as an indicator for IQ.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griggs_v._Duke_Power_Co.

  • JadedLibertarian

    And you still can’t spell?

    I’m not sure what to say to that none.

    I suppose I could try something pally like “Oh gee you got me, har de har har”.

    Or I could try something passive aggressive like “Maybe I was typing it on a smartphone at a quarter to midnight”.

    But neither of those responses seem quite adequate. Do you critique the spelling or grammar of lots of comments on the internet? What sort of response do you get from others when you do? Perhaps their actions could give me some pointers as to how to respond to your devastating riposte.

  • madrocketsci

    Late to the party here. Something that shocked me a bit when reading older books from the 1950s and early 60s was the level of respect accorded to engineers and skilled tradesmen in industry. It seems an engineer, in terms of social status, was accorded almost the respect and independence that a doctor or lawyer had. (And now I realize that even *this* is out of date. Doctors and lawyers are suffering the same sort of degradation.)

    Here in America today, an engineer is looked down on as a sort of technological peasant, one step above a technician, by smooth talking parasites who couldn’t begin to understand what we do. It seems all formerly autonomous professionals are being ground down into a kind of serfdom.

    1. If you aren’t connected to management, you are a peasant. Being a STEM major just makes you a peasant that doesn’t have the “people skills” to explain what you do in 140 characters or less to people who resent you for your ability to do math.
    2. More degrees don’t really help.

  • madrocketsci

    Ehh, we engineers may be somewhere near the top of a sinking ship of prosperity, independence, and freedom. Many have it worse. But the waterline is still getting closer.

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