‘’What do you intend to do after your degree?’’ is a question most university students are used to hearing.
Even I, a first year English student, have faced it, although admittedly, it’s usually accompanied by a sympathetic look, as if the interrogator has already envisioned me in the dole queue with my fellow humanities students, or worse, as a teacher.
The truth be told, I’m utterly clueless about what I want to do after my degree, I just know that I don’t want to be a teacher. Of course, I have a vague plan of action, but nothing concrete.
However, what unsettles me the most is not the dubious job prospects my English degree will or, most likely, will not bring, but the shift in attitude which has occurred towards higher education and what it stands for.
It seems universities are no longer sanctuaries for the intellectually curious to explore their chosen discipline and party hard away from the prying eyes of parents. They have become cattle markets.
Today a degree is seen as little more than a tentative stepping stone towards gaining a good (i.e. high paying) job.
All a degree seems to signify these days is how employable you are; from your degree classification to the subject you endeavoured to study. Some students these days are picking degrees based on what will get them a job rather than how much they love the subject. It may be seen as sensible, but surely it’s more rewarding to study something you love?
Admittedly, reading the poetry of Tennyson and Larkin doesn’t sound as impressive as solving difficult mathematical equations. Similarly, writing an essay on sexuality in American literature may not result in employers kicking my door in to hire me for my innovative thinking, but I love my degree and even if I spend the next three years after unemployed, I won’t regret a thing.