A matter of degrees

19 Jul

Graduation As we start a succession of graduation ceremonies this week (proud parents in suits and saris were arriving this morning), it’s time to reflect on the development of the degree.

We’re a university with many NoHEFTs. This inelegant acronym describes those with ‘no higher education in the family tradition’. Many of those parents are so proud because their son or their daughter is the first in the family to collect this award. Some of my colleagues fit this category too, which is understandable since higher education has only expanded so rapidly in recent decades. Until very recently it was a minority preserve.

I’m proud to have had a graduate grandmother. She was born at the start of the last century and educated in the early 1920s. Higher education, remember, was a largely male preserve as late as the 1960s (now women outnumber men). Ironically, she wasn’t expected to work after marriage even though her husband was a humble bank clerk. Both my parents and both my sisters have degrees.

This isn’t social snobbery on my part. I’m from an educated background but not a wealthy one (I’ve the many Quakers in my family tree to thank for that). My other grandmother’s father was an illiterate dock worker in Hartlepool. Mass adult literacy only arrived in the late nineteenth century; mass access to higher education began in the late twentieth. The clock cannot be turned back; education is the driver for social mobility and change.

2 Responses to “A matter of degrees”

  1. Heather Smith 19/07/2006 at 12:10 pm #

    It’s true – education can improve so many areas of life – not just the number of jobs you can apply for.
    Despite the advances in Higher Education provision in the UK however, there are still huge regional differences in the number of people studying at higher level. For example, the South West, with its predominately rural economy attracts relatively low levels of home-grown students.
    Fortunately, Marjons is part of the pioneering AimHigher South West programme which hopes to redress the balance by encouraging students and parents from under-represented groups to think about HE. As a NoHEFT, I’m being considered for the position of ‘student ambassador.’ If I’m chosen I’ll be going into schools/colleges/access courses and showing that it can be done…

  2. Simon Collister 19/07/2006 at 12:27 pm #

    I was at two separate events yesterday where education was discussed as a driver for social and economic change.
    First was the annual Leeds Met staff presentation event (for a client) in the graduation marquee (hope the air-con is working!) where the V/C Simon Lee championed the need for life-long learning (to use a buzzword) and the continual re-invention of ideas.
    I would have popped in, Richard, but had to dash off to another client’s annual reveiw in Bradford where I heard Admiral Amjad Hussein, the highest ranking Asian in the British military, spoke about the need for people to have the confidence to ensure they were always being challenged. Always learning and being willing to learn was part of this.
    I think all of this is vitally imporant for a host of reasons. And if I drag this round to blogging… it is another great way to continually update your knowledge and perceptions on a range of issues.

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