Does a university degree really matter?

We are often told that a university degree is vital to securing employment and long-term term economic security. But is this true in Zambia? With increasing numbers of people studying for a degree we ask whether higher education adequately prepares students for employment and ask whether degrees are still considered important by employers.

Does higher education adequately prepare students for employment?

Media reports frequently suggest that employers are unhappy with the way that higher education prepares students for employment. Employers complain that students lack basic skills required for the workplace.  In contrast, more and more students are attending university desperate to acquire the skills required to succeed in the workplace.  This raises a number of questions:

  • Are educators failing to listen the requirements of employers?
  • Are employers failing to communicate to educators the skills that they require for the modern workplace?
  • What changes need to be made to the current system?

Does having a degree really matter?

A simple question but one that is frequently debated by students, employees and employers.

Why does this question remain unanswered?

For a start not all degrees are the same.  Degrees are awarded for a range of subjects and are awarded from a number of different education providers.

  • Could it be that employers value degrees in some industries but not in others?
  • Does a degree from one education provider prepare a student better than a degree from an alternative education provider?
  • Does the grade you obtain mean that you will perform better in the workplace?
  • If you are planning on running your own business does having a degree really matter?

Looking at the jobs adverts we receive from employers and advertise on it is clear that many employers want applications from those with degrees.  Do they do this because they value the skills that a degree-holder has or because it acts as a screen to reduce the number of applicants?  Could it be that experience is sometimes more appropriate than a degree?

What is the evidence?

study from the UK suggests that in some countries there was a relationship between the number of graduates and economic growth in those countries.  A further study suggested that graduates on average will earn more during the course of their life than non-graduates.  Have any studies on either of these topics been undertaken in Zambia?  What effect will the digital age have on learning and knowledge?  Could degrees become obsolete?

Have your say

Lots of questions have been raised above and it would be great to hear your opinions. Why not share your opinions with us below.

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4 thoughts on “Does a university degree really matter?”

  1. I have a slightly different opinion, entry jobs in the Zambian labour force seem to be Non-degree jobs. Though the appears to be more degree related jobs on the market, the required level of experience suggests that it is not designed for university graduates with no prior work experience or qualification.
    The job entry barrier results into a university degree being more of a barrier for the experienced degree holder who is over qualified for entry jobs by having a degree and under-qualified for the degree level jobs due to lack of inadequate work experience. this discrepancy between academic qualification, work experience and job requirements is a real problem for the University graduates without prior work experience.

    • A thought provoking opinion Nicholas. Is this is the case then what is the solution for university graduates? Should employers and/or the government be helping graduates?

      • very true Nicholas. I am a university graduate in international relations and communication studies and I am now working as a secretary getting the minimum wage stipulated by our government. it is so annoying to see ads with all the qualifications and qualities you have but u still don’t qualify coz u don’t have 10**** years experience. what has become of this country. our parents including some directors that ask for these qualifications did not have any when they were at their starting points. and where and how do we get that experience in our fields when u cant be employed to start with. it seems they want other countries to do the dirty grooming for them and yes we shall leave Zambia, go else to sa or Europe where they embrace graduate and best believe 10 years from now we shall not bring any form of development or come back to a country that so seems to be putting blocks around all the professional jobs. having said that, I think people should be employed based on merit and trained for the job. of what harm would that be? The only people by the way who have 10 years experience are old people who studied, worked abroad, and came back to Zambia. home is home they say but I say home is country recognizes and appreciates your strengths

        • Interesting opinions here though I have seen this after three months of the last contributor. Yes graduates world over are going through the same shit of 10 years experience issue. I did my bachelors in Europe and because I could not find work, i continued to study my masters and graduating in two months. I have been checking for jobs both abroad and at home, but the problem is always the experience part which most of us young people do not have and we are truly stuck and soon we will not even remember what we have studied! Govt must really come up some plan on how to tackle this problem, but it seems they are not interested especially when they increase the retirement age! Good luck

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