The university, middle class life and the professions

by reestheskin on 20/04/2014

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I am near through reading Derek Bok’s ‘Higher Education in America’. Coupled with the day job, it is hardly surprising I spend much of my waking time thinking about Higher Education. One of the things I read into Bok’s book is the way that the professional schools have been a safe bet for smart students. It is not that all is good in the professional schools, but that the world has treated them and their graduates relatively well, by comparison with sciences and the humanities (I will try and flesh these statements out another time, but one of the reasons why people should worry about the lack of interest in STEM, is that careers in science are not attractive to so many bright people).

I have just come across a nice article by Tressie McMillan Cottom that summarises some of the issues, for those who graduate out with the professional schools. The content is not too unusual if you are interested in these matters, but it is a well written piece, that summarises a lot of thinking about what has, and what might happen. Here is a quote: (that I picked up on Audrey Watters’ site)

“The current narrative from the private sector and elite opinion-makers is that higher education is failing Americans. College is overpriced and due for disruption. Graduates are not prepared for their jobs, and rigid class schedules make it hard for workers to retrain for twenty-first-century jobs. But just thirty short years ago, the wage premium for college graduates was being touted as the saving grace of higher education. How could college have gone so wrong so fast?”

Bok’s book includes chapters on the three main professional schools: medicine, law and business. The similarities and differences between them are interesting. But law, he makes clear, has perhaps seen the most radical change as a profession, and in what value law students get from Higher Education. By comparison, there have been less change in US medical education. The same factors are however at work, and the rate of change will accelerate, I think. In the UK, change has been less, but the same forces are at work. All the changes that have affected much of the middle class, are going to sweep through medicine. An obvious statement perhaps, but I am not really certain how much our UK students see this coming. Timescale? Always the most difficult question.

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