One of the most important factors that people consider when choosing what to study at university is what could be coldly dubbed ‘the return on investment’. People ask themselves whether they will get a good job and how much that job will pay. While this is not the case for everyone, unfortunately there are many who choose their university degrees mostly based on how much they could be earning afterwards.
Expectations can be misleading.
According to the BBC, five years after graduation business students earn much less than those who studied Veterinary science and Mathematics, and around the same of several other degrees holders. It’s true that those who pursue a Master in Business Administration (MBA) can see their salaries skyrocket, but anyone can study for an MBA regardless of their academic background. While students might not be aware of this disparity before they enrol in university or even during their studies, they certainly perceive that the value for money of studying Business is much low, with only 28% of students perceiving good value according to the “2017 Student Academic Experience Survey” by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).
The report also highlights that 41% of Business students would have chosen another course at the time of enrolment had they known what they know now, second only to those studying Technology. This is extremely significant, and universities should start to rethink how their business education is provided if they do not want to lose this quite lucrative stream. In fact, companies are now starting to receive accreditation for their apprenticeships to be considered on the same level as Master’s degrees. This implies that in a not-too-distant future, students could leapfrog university and enter the business world without attending higher education, as they will be trained directly on the job – where it is proven that learning happens at a faster pace.
If this led to a society in which universities went back to their original, sacred purpose of solely educating people, I would think it terrific. Sadly, universities have become places that are expected to supply people ready to enter the job market and be immediately economically productive, so universities have to innovate – favourite business world buzzword ever – in order not to die.
They could start by increasing contact hours, as they are correlated with higher student satisfaction, according to the HEPI survey above. But how to do that? Since business students hear the same concepts repeated in different ways under different subjects’ names throughout their university career? Shortening the duration of the degrees would not be a feasible solution, so it would be more beneficial to students, and most importantly to society, that humanist subjects are included within the curriculum, in primis philosophy and ethics. Moreover, especially in English-speaking countries, students should be taught another modern language to a proficient level that would enable them to work and live in a foreign country.
Whether we like it or not, business is the backbone of our society, and it is crucial that its future leaders are educated in a responsible way, and that’s where universities should step up their game and prevent companies from entering the field.
By Tommaso Giacomini