University Degree versus Real Life
I have been through so many interviews and heard so many opinions on the above topic that I finally decided to write a short text or rather – it made me express my own opinion on it. It is not my target to formulate an unequivocal answer, because it simply does not exist. That is why I stress that my view is based on my experience with what kind of candidates are victorious on the job market and which ones, on the other hand, find no use for their skills and education.
Let me begin with a quick glance to history. In the 90s, in general, companies preferred candidates who possessed an academic degree. What is more interesting here, though, is the fact that they did not really care about what field the candidate selected as his/her major or which particular school they studied at. Any university degree simply guaranteed that the said person had – apart from their expertise – also a sense of purpose, that they were able to finish what they started and that they were result orientated. Universities guaranteed that. The question is if we can talk about this kind of guarantee even after 20 years’ time. If we put the question differently, we can ask: “Can the state guarantee the quality of university education?” Officially, the answer is ‘yes’ as we have an institute of accreditation which was implemented into Czech legal system by law no. 172/199 Col. on Universities. What is the reality behind it, though? Offering my answer, I would be entering polemics thanks to the fact that there are different views on what quality really means. So instead of that, let’s have a look at the overview of number of universities in the Czech Republic.
In 2017 there were (according to Ministry of Education) 26 public, 2 state (Police Academy and University of Defense) and 39 private accredited universities/colleges. However, maybe the next number is even more informative – 14. This is the number of private universities/colleges which, for various reasons, ceased their activities last year. These institutions produced a vast number of graduates boasting various degrees – but the only thing they can say about their education is the fact that their Alma Mater does not exist any longer.
When we shed some light on private institutions, the PR strategy of some of them is debatable. Of course, they need to promote themselves and that is fine – however, basing the school ads on likeable trendy phrases which have nothing to do with education per se is not the happiest of choices. In my opinion, a university or any educational institution should encourage their students’ desire to continuously learn, discover, read and explore – because the more one delves deeper into any field, the more s/he realizes how much they still need to learn. Only this realization, not the degree, guarantees further career as well as personal development.
I have met managers from IT or pharmacy fields who had studied philology or history of art, or people who ‘only’ finished secondary/high school. Nevertheless, they were able to delve deep into their new field; they wanted to learn, were focused and never stopped working on themselves. At the same time, I encountered people with master degrees who never had to read any scientific publication during their studies and were done with their diploma thesis in a week. Once a person understands what it takes to study any subject, and if they can go deeper than just sliding the surface; if they base their facts on verified sources and develop their critical thinking, they will always be ahead of those who do not do that or those who only pretend to, with their diplomas safely stacked in their drawer.
The opinion which I also present to my clients is that if we do not specifically deal with technically or in any other way specifically challenging position where the future performance must be supported by at least 5 years of professional studies – then we focus on different criteria when it comes to assessing the suitability of a candidate. Personally, I found it most effective to put emphasis on candidate’s identification with the selected company and its products; their level of motivation, life attitudes and goals and last but not least, their approach to sport. After all that, the university degree can only represent a bonus point.
University education should be attempted by all those who do not imagine themselves working manually and those who systematically want to improve their profile in a certain field. At the same time, when looking into a CV, let’s not overestimate the degree holders or underestimate those who decided to walk a different path.