I cockney rhyming slang the word for a second class honours degree (lower division) is a Desmond. The Lower second is known as a 2.2 or two two and Desmond is short for Desmond Tutu (the famous anti apartheid campaigner and former Arch Bishop of Cape Town).
I hear on the news this morning that employers are regularly disregarding a 2.2 degree when considering applicants for graduate jobs. I find this deeply concerning because there was a time when getting a degree of any classification was regarded as an achievement and a 2.2 costs the student and the state just as much as a 2.1 or a first.
If we are saying that for, perhaps half of all graduates, the time money and effort just wasn't worth it we should be more honest and say that the last government's arbitrary target of 50% of young people going to university was not just unwise but deeply unfair.
What we need is a credible and respected vocational education stream, not seen as worse than or subordinate to the academic stream but different and equally important. We have too few engineers, teachers, craftspeople because we force too many young people down an inappropriate academic stream.
It would be sad enough if it were just that but the real shame is that we are saddling thousands of young people with huge personal debts at the very start of their lives for the privilege of getting a degree that employers don't take seriously.
And before you ask I'm proud to have a vocational degree (and a Desmond at that!).
Loongate: Where We Are
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