Blog: Education vs Experience

Boom Boom Boom Boom! Arts London in my room!

The decision by our MPs to raise the limit on tuition fees has led to a lot of debate about not only the price of a university education, but how much it is actually worth. With costs spiraling, many people have started to calculate how much a university education will aid a person in their future career and how much money it will add to their monthly paycheck, with the results increasingly bleak. Earlier today Fashion156 posted a blog debating whether or not it is useful/necessary to have a university education to work in the fashion industry in particular. Most of the responses seemed to be on the side of experience over education.

Fashion156’s editor Guy Hipwell tweeted, “in my personal experience, I wish I had assisted a really amazing stylist instead of studying – as that is what I had to do in the end anyway.” He added that the reason he is concerned about our universities’ ability to prepare candidates for the world of work is that he finds an increasing number of graduate interns unable to do basic admin tasks such as communicate via email, and that many, despite having expensive degrees from prestigious fashion schools, cannot even name a few current designers when asked.

Blogger Lotte Sheedy added, “I have been thinking more and more about this during the past few days. Im currently on another internship and it got me thinking – I know that when I graduate, I wont be skilled enough to apply for any job in my field. A lot of degrees these days seem to give people the same amount of knowledge that reading a book about it would give you, leaving you with a very general understanding but with no real training.”

Having completed a BA in English Literature and a Post Grad in Fashion Journalism from one of the London fashion schools, I can sympathise with their point. In neither course was there any focus on vocational skills or how I would go about finding a job when I graduated and, in the case of my first degree, this left me feeling lost when it was time to enter the world of work.

However I think that if we are now going to expect our universities to start prepping their students solely on how to get a job, we are doing the future generation a real disservice and are missing the point of university(and I must point out here that I am talking about non-vocational courses).

University is a place to learn, to think about the world and to expand the mind. I loved my literature BA with a passion. I was taught by some of the best literary minds in the country, and some of them were the authors of the books I was reading. I got to spend the entire three years thinking about and discussing these amazing works of art and will never get the chance again to focus purely on my intellectual betterment. I spend enough time now that I have graduated learning how to write emails and do the filing, and will bitterly defend my tutor’s right to focus on the abstract and not these mundane tasks, which to be honest are easily picked up by anyone with half a brain anyway.

As my very intimidating Course Director at fashion school flamboyantly declared on the first day, “I am not here to find you a job. I am here to teach you and inspire you. If you expect to get a job at the end of this course, I suggest you look for it yourself.” And this is the whole point: those that have the drive and common sense to think about their careers can look after themselves and can learn vocational skills through internships. Those that expect to just do their course and walk out of it into their dream job have their heads in the clouds. I’m not saying that experience counts for nothing, I have done several internships myself. I just refuse to belittle the (two) best experience(s) of my life. For any young people out there who are worried about the cost of an education, I say you can’t put a price on learning so go!

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