First-Degree Burns

I am pleased to announce that I have graduated from High Street University with a first-class honours degree in [insert any lamentable toss here]

Such announcements are popping up all over the shop on social media. LinkedIn degree-result fanfaronade appears to be today’s must-have accessory for the me-me-me gang.

‘I’m so grateful to my lecturers for an incredible four years…’

(Ok, you can stop now, you obsequious turd pocket. Dr Quim, or whoever your tutor was, has probably already forgotten you. Or had never even registered who you were in the first place).

Most of these insufferable dullards are even tacking a copy of the formal notification document onto their posts, presumably so we can peruse their academic pedigree down to modular level. Like we wanted to see that they got an 80 for ‘Understanding Coronation Street’?

Now, I’m not slating the achievement, per se. Any qualification merits a moment of self-satisfaction. And in these cases, the proclaimers have at least completed their coursework and haven’t spaffed the exorbitant cost of a tertiary education up the wall. They paid their money, enrolled on the course, and completed it.

But what do you expect us to do? Print it off and pin it to the fridge with some Disney magnets?

Back in the day, you got your results (nakedly pinned to the noticeboard at administrative central) and hit the pub because real life was about to hit home. Now, it’s a formal proclamation, as one might consider with impending nuptials.

Well, it is a marriage of sorts. They’ve spliced with a £60k debt for a qualification that will likely lead to an extended career as a barista, rather than as a barrister.

A large sack of the modern day ‘university’ degree-spew is not worth a squirt from somebody else’s hosepipe. With the benefit of a thin slice of foresight, a sizeable chunk of UK wannabe-graduates might just as well have doled out $100 to an online diploma mill.

I’m afraid that I’m going to have to release the sack-entrapped feline: the LinkedIn fanfare is less a moment of glory and more double-whammying self-shaming. These public revelations simply betray that thousands of new graduates had been monumentally mugged off, and they clearly still haven’t joined up the dots. They’ll need to stump up a further £20k for the MA in Dot-to-Dot to advance to that higher stratum of deductive reasoning.

There is no escaping the bleeding obvious. Higher education in the UK is big business and a transactional exchange. Grades are grossly inflated because if they are not then that £30-40k in tuition fees is going to whichever august institution fulfils the promise.

Too many bods want the degree they have paid for – the notion that they must pay for the opportunity to earn does not cut the mustard with the entitled. Off they trot to the university of Fisher Price for a 3-year beano of endless platitudes, shovelling up reams of coursework which become largely a test of paraphrasing dexterity. The only nuts they bust with a fond regularity are the panicked re-hashes they plug into Turnitin, or whatever anti-plagiarism process is de rigeur. Or enlist writing services for a steep fee. Once the paper gets green-ticked, on they plod.

If you tested half of these morons under examination conditions, the number of referrals to psychiatric wards would cripple the NHS even more than COVID. We’d have to open up Nightingale laughing academies in every county to deal with the flood of broken minds.

As a glutton for punishment, I delved into a number of these announcements and some of the grammatical aberrations burn into your retinas like a Mr Muscle face pack. First-class honours graduates who still haven’t grasped there/their/they’re, who would of done this or that, and who toss commas about like Pride glitter. Taken together, the absurdity of the declarations becomes clear, as does that of the posters. They’ve been winging it in institutions that themselves blag their academic existence, and here they are planting their ragged flags at the apex of Mount Braggadocio.

So, what do the statistics tell us? In the late 1980s, there were half the number of universities as there are now, and 5% of students received first-class degrees. In 2019, the first-class allocation averaged at 33%, with that of some universities as high as 90%. In fact, if grade inflation continues at its current rate, every university student in the year 2058 will graduate with a first. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.

Needless to say – if I have not yet spelt it out – standards have fallen.

And no matter what toss is calligraphed in a delicate hand on so many degree certificates that lays claim to high-ranking attainment, muppets unwittingly debunk the whole sorry malarkey with their sub-GCSE and frankly gruesome English language howlers.

The penny drops when prospective employers run the rule over their social media blathering and correctly interpret their putatively stellar degrees as proof only that they had finished in the top third of a cohort of the pathologically dim.

Forget the arguments about the self-harm of Brexit or the damaging effects of COVID. Any education system that foists near-worthless academic status onto the intellectually impoverished in exchange for crippling debt is monumentally warped at the core.

The penny has not yet dropped for the unabashed braggarts making whoopee as they crank up the swank. But in 12-18 months’ time, still on entry-level wages and harangued by monster debt, the mists will start to clear for the next big reveal.

They’re screwed.

Of course, if they had had a decent education, they would have sussed it earlier.

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