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Thursday, 15 July 2010


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I have a "BA in English Studies" but I work für ein German company at their Copenhagen office as their Jack of all things Finnish. My biggest asset at this firm, and the others before them, is being a native Finnish speaker and fairly fluent in Swedish and Danish. Everything else I've learned "on the job", and I'm still waiting for anything I was taught at the univerity to translate into something directly useful at work. But I still can't bring myself to admit studying for the degree was a waste of time. I was an adult at the time and in no need of tutoring on the fascinating subjects of girls and beer. My focus was elsewhere.

Still, I do agree with you and Nelson on the folly of the degrees for degrees' sake doctrine. The discussion around the subject is particularly vivid here in Scandinavia where education is absolutely free and on top of which each (Danish) student is entitled to a free grant of around 4600 DKK (£516) plus a cheap loan of 2500 DKK (£280) a month. I don't know the figures for Finland, Sweden or Norway but the idea is more or less the same all over the Nordics.

Being a incurable product of the three Scandinavian wellfare states I've lived in, I absolutely support free education at all levels. What I don't support is the trickery of renaming all these third-rate polytechnics into 'universities' and 'universities of applied sciences' and licensing them to fool gullible kids into thinking they are pursuing degrees of some worth. Many of those schools don't deserve anything else than to be shut down.

Somewhere, Milton Friedman points out that public schools (what we call public schools, meaning tax-supported) always turn into useless institutions, but vocational schools do not. The reason is that a student at a vocational school is actually making an investment in himself, and the school needs to attract students by offering good and useful courses that will pay-off at the end.

He also points out that, even though vocational schools attract the poorer students, they are never the site of violence, there is never a request for "native language" (meaning spanish) courses, and no need for affirmative action.

Juri, welcome back to D&N.

Well, your English studies certainly produced one good result, somewhat better grammatical English than I usually write! Actually, your comment has provoked me into thinking a bit more about universities in the modern age - and please notice that this time I failed to apply the irony-laden inverted commas with which I usually surround the word 'universities' - because it is obvious that places of high, or indeed, stratospheric, education are essential.

Dom, you are entirely right. 'Over here' we used to have Technical Colleges which, with typical British snobbishness, were rather looked down on because the middle-classes all wanted their children to go to a 'university'. So guess what, they changed their names and called themselves 'universities', but what was worse, they then dropped the technical stuff and began offering all these spurious course which are useless.

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