Why did you go to university?


Stellenbosch-University-South-Africa1-1050x700We constantly hear the stories of people who came, got their degrees and left into the real world, struggling to get jobs and saying that their degrees didn’t really prepare them for their career. In many cases, people end up in careers unrelated to what they studied.

Are you here just because your parents also attended university, and it would look bad in their social circle if you didn’t attend university?

Conversely, are you here because your parents didn’t have the privilege of coming to university, and they are adamant that you have the opportunity they never had?

Are you not totally committed to your degree – you actually have other dreams – but you were told that having a degree is something to fall back on?

Are you here simply because you didn’t have anything better to do? Was coming to university the only thing you could do, instead of finding a job of some sort, or going on an apprenticeship?

Do you go to class and spend countless hours in the library with the intention to actually learn, or only to pass?

Some of our parents would tell us that ‘in their day’ they could get a job and live a middle class life with only a matric qualification. Has education’s quality been watered down due to institutions’ notion of political correctness, such that a candidate’s self esteem is now valued more than their intellectual robustness and readiness for the tough real world?

Did you consider whether your profession is future proof? Many jobs that existed 30 years ago don’t exist anymore. Many of the degrees we are studying for will become obsolete in the future, as technology advances. Certain areas such as law, accounting and medicine will become less relevant in the future as computer power advances; take IBM’s Watson, for example.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where status is valued over substance when it comes to academics. In many cases, the degree certificate is valued more than the actual knowledge or experience supposedly behind it.

I’m not saying that coming to university is a bad idea, but we should all be spending a lot more time thinking about why we’re here, and how we want to build the future.


  1. Well, I did NOT go to university. The cost was simply too high for my family to comfortably afford, and having read up on the horrors of student debt, that wasn’t an option I was willing to take. In the end, I was recruited into a technology company, and worked hard to turn that opportunity into more opportunities. It’s a little depressing that my story is atypical.

    As far as I see it, it’s a simple equation – to earn a living, you need to provide value in exchange for currency. Education is meant to grant (or enhance) your skills, enabling you to deliver more value in the same amount of time. You should only seek an education if you understand, at the very least, what value you’re capable of providing to the world.

    I think if more people saw it like a home loan (deposit and debt down for long-term returns) rather than a rite of passage or a status symbol, less people might go to university, but more of them would be going for the right reasons.

    • I really do admire your kind of story. The irony is I still went to university even though I would have had a nice government job, although it would have been low paying. I would have lived comfortably.

    • In my case, I did the maths sometime and despite the huge costs involved, university education did boost my income potential.

      Of course there is opportunity cost at work either way.


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