The announcements about student fees being increased made me wonder when it was decided that it was necessary for so many people to go to university. This emphasis  on university education seems to be the accepted norm now.

We hear the usual statements trotted out.

 “They need the university experience”. 

I would argue that they will be so busy trying to find a part time job, or worrying about the debt that they miss out on this.

 “They will earn about £100,000 more in their working lives than those who don’t have a degree.” 

 Tell that to the post graduates who are still trying to find any job whatever the pay. I remember two youngsters we knew in our previous home. Both the same age. One left school and went to work in the supermarket and worked her way up to become a deputy manager. The other (after a struggle and extra cramming) went to university. He came home with a mediocre degree and a student loan to repay, and got a job in the supermarket as a trainee manager!

The cynic in me wonders if the determination to send so many to university is a con. to keep the unemployment figures down 

 It is about time we learned that some jobs are more suited to other ways of training and to esteem all kinds of training and further education. For some occupations  theoretic knowledge is no use without the practical experience to complement it.

Lord Sugar gave a very good speech  on this subject. There was also an interesting letter in the Mail from Mr Spencer who is an employer and also a graduate from the OU. He said that he would rather employ a 22yr old with 4 years experience of a disciplined working environment than a graduate!

Obviously some occupations do need the academic approach gained  at university, but, unless one can afford to lead a donnish life and study for the joy of studying, the courses should be tailored to fit the careers chosen and then fill the places with the students with the potential to benefit from them.

Employers who decide that they need graduates should be prepared to sponsor suitable candidates in return for a guaranteed period of employment after they obtain the degree. I heard recently that Morrisons (the supermarket) were preparing to offer scholarships to suitable candidates in return for three years employment post- grad. The armed forces have done this for many years and doubtless there are other firms doing it too, but I think it should be mandatory for employers who make use of the degrees to make some contribution towards that training.

When I left school many of the employers had their own training schemes, tailored to their particular requirements.

Most of my schoolfriends went to university,  training college or teaching hospital. My brother’s friends were apprentices and worked for 5 years under the combined teaching of the technical college and the mentorship of master craftsmen. None of us had to pay fees and those at college or university received a maintenance grant and were able to find holiday jobs to provide pocket money.

The nurses had board and lodging provided plus a small salary, so although we were always hard up, we had no debts when we qualified. I think as a generation we didn’t expect to earn very much until we finished our training.

I know that today’s university educated nurses don’t agree, but I still think that “our way” was the better way. I have heard it said that illnesses are more complicated now! I know that there are far more drugs and more equipment to learn about and would find it difficult to fit in on a modern ward, but I think they would find it difficult to fit onto our wards! They would have to sterilise all their own equipment, test urine and other samples without the aid of dipsticks, using chemicals, test tubes and glass slides. Most antibiotics were in powder form and had to be mixed with sterile water, the dose calculated and then given by intramuscular injection. IV drips were managed and timed manually, not by computer chips. There was no keyhole surgery so even simple operations had large wound areas to dress and keep free from infection. These are just a few of the changes to illustrate my point that it was a different training, but no less academic, most of our lectures in study block were given by the professors  who also lectured the medical students and State Registration was given the same respect as a degree.

With my SRN SCM I had qualifications which would have been accepted world wide and I have worked as a staff nurse or sister in  different countries  -medical, surgical,research, obstetrics both hospital and district, cancer care, general practice and industrial and never felt out of my depth or received any complaints, so the training must have been thorough!

It would solve a lot of the staffing problems too, a new intake of student nurses every three months, all of whom were intending to complete their training, no untrained staff, other than for domestic duties, no one “filling in time until something better turned up!” 

If nurses were still trained this way it would make life a lot easier for the RNs because they could rely on their orders being carried out efficiently, they would have time to mentor the student nurses and most importantly the patients would be properly cared for, no one left in a wet bed, unfed or unwashed, basic nursing care was well within the capabilities of a student nurse.

Perhaps, if we can get rid of the snob appeal of a degree and give equal value to other qualifications there would be more money available for those who do go to university.

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