Sub-degree education fails to match up to job demand

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 12:43am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 12:48am

Researchers from think tank and political group New Century Forum ... said [the study] showed that sub-degree holders did not enjoy Hong Kong’s economic growth and that it might not be worth pursuing sub-degrees ...

City, August 5


I haven’t tracked down the exact data series that this group says show sub-degree holders suffering a 17.4 per cent drop in inflation adjusted income over the last 20 years but the figure cannot be far wrong.

And I think there is too great an element of restraint in the phrase “might not be worth”. Let’s make this, “is not worth”. Sub-degrees are a bad investment of your time and effort, leave alone money, certainly where the job market is concerned.

But someone in the group has it wrong in suggesting that the solution is more government support for sub-degree holders to obtain university degrees.

No, no, no. That will only make the problem worse.

Is it worth it? Average wage for sub-degree holders drops 20pc, now paid similar to secondary school graduates

Let me clear the air here first. I am not a big believer in education and most definitely not in university education. We have far too much of it, mostly of questionable value (for instance, journalism courses).

It betrays young people at the most creative period of their lives to years of regimented tasks that destroy their creativity and it condemns them to poverty for years thereafter in paying for it all. It promises (and costs) much but delivers little.

Let the charts tell the story. The first shows that university degree holders now account for almost 30 per cent of our employment rolls, up from 11 per cent 20 years ago. This is a phenomenal rate of growth.

The second chart matches these degree holders against the number of employed managers, administrators and professionals, the job categories targeted by university education.

Twenty years ago we actually had more people holding down such jobs than there were degree holders. The latest figures show 1.11 million degree holders for 708,000 jobs in management, administration and the professions, an excess of more than 50 per cent over the number required.

And the solution to this problem is more university?

I blame corporate human resources departments for much of the debacle that has now been made of sub-degrees. Faced with a surfeit of full degree applicants why give a job to a sub-degree one?

The sub-degree holder might actually be the better applicant but how is the human resources department to know? Its people are rarely up to making subjective judgments and could easily get in trouble if they try it.

They therefore work with tick boxes and score sheets. The highest score gets the job and nothing scores higher in this warped environment than a degree.

A friend once asked his boss to let him take over human resources because the company boasted that its difference was its people. Its human resources department, however, was the same as every other company’s and it made the same tick box hiring decisions. Let’s do it on a gut feel basis, my friend said.

Brilliant idea. But he didn’t do it. No-one will and thus the curse of university will only grow worse.