Monday 30 April 2012

Value of University Degrees – What do Maltese Students Think?

Nowadays, the trend seems to be moving towards post-graduate education. First degrees are not enough. Perhaps a result of the ‘education inflation’ that we’re living in these days, students feel the need to pursue higher education, given that what they have might just not be enough.

This applies at both local and international scale. In the US, for instance, the total post-graduate enrollment figures in degree-granting institutions increased from 1,767,557 in 1998 to 2,293,593 in 2007 (NCES, 2009). In the UK, from 2000 to 2006, the postgraduate population rose by over a fifth—from 448,695 in 2000/1 to 545,370 in 2005/6 (Mok & Ball, 2008).

In Malta, the traits were relatively the same, where the number of students earning a master’s degree from the University of Malta alone has increased from 166 in 1998 to 395 in 2007 (University of Malta, 2008). Meanwhile, post-graduate education offered by foreign universities within the private sector in Malta is also evolving considerably (NCHE Malta, 2011).

It is undeniable that people are giving post-graduate education more value and importance. A small study was carried out among 11 graduate students with the prime end to investigate and to acquire a deeper understanding of adult learners’ perceptions towards post-graduate education and its value in their lives.

Several emergent themes were noted down , where some of the most common ones included the following:  (a) increased self-esteem, (b) professional expertise, (c) professional growth and fulfillment, (d) good pay, (e) job satisfaction, and (f) self-confidence and respect. Two participants stated that a degree could enrich the graduate both in knowledge and in his or her confidence.
 All the 11 participants agreed that a degree could equip them with the required tools to set off for their work. Does this lead, however, to essentially better workers? Two participants agreed that a degree goes to making a better worker.

However, three participants claimed that ‘competence’ and ‘experience’ were required in addition to the degree. Two other participants mentioned ‘professional expertise’ that subtly interweaves with what three other participants claimed to be ‘the personal growth and fulfillment’ obtained from degrees.

Nearly all the participants agreed that a degree enabled personal growth and fulfillment to the extent, however, that one continues to hone his or her skills and thereby grow in her or her expertise.

In other words, they were in favour of lifelong learning, which, in addition to pro-activeness can lead to progress—both for the individual as well as for his or her workplace.

What do you think? Is a degree really valuable after all?
We would like to hear from you!

Nikita Pisani at Muovo


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