Perry de Havilland, he of Samizdata and hippo worship, makes the following comment under my recent post on Oxbridge:
Frankly I think most people have no good reason to go to any university, unless they are in a STEM field, let alone go Oxbridge.
I’d probably agree with that. There is definitely an argument that the study of subjects with no commercial value, e.g. ancient Greek, archaeology, philosophy, etc. is worth doing simply for the betterment of humanity. I believe it is worth having scholars poring over the Dead Sea scrolls to try to figure out what they tell us about the world back then, just for the sake of knowing. I’d even go so far as to say such activities could be state-funded: hell, when you look at the utter shite we spend money on, genuine expanding human knowledge via genuine research looks at lot easier to stomach even if you’re against state-funding in principle.
However, these activities should be reserved for the absolute brightest people among us, those freak geniuses whose brainpower is needed to push the boundaries of knowledge and discovery further back, and who will stick to their task regardless of the sacrifices it asks of them (such as not having a life).
The problem comes when some idiot decides that anyone and everyone should be allowed to study subjects with no commercial value (or, indeed, any value) at taxpayer expense. The problem is equally bad if people are actively pressured to study garbage at their own expense, rather than doing something more useful. That’s how we end up with 25 year olds with degrees in Media Writing unable to find a job of any kind whatsoever. As Bloke on M4 says in response to Perry:
There’s a great video on YouTube of filmmakers like Terry Gilliam, Werner Herzog and John Carpenter telling people to just make films, not to go to film school.
I’d say that if you want to be a programmer, the best way to learn is install Visual Studio Community, Unity 3D, get a Pluralsight subscription ($30/month) and build a game or an app. Make something you want to make. Something you can try and fail at. Fill in gaps with Google, clubs, forums etc. The only reason to get a degree is to get your foot in the door.
The danger with this approach, although it is sensible, is that large organisations are obsessed with credentials – they’d rather employ someone in HR with no experience and a psychology degree than someone who’s managed people for 20 years but has no formal qualifications.
I’ve written before about how I think bright, young men will begin to shun big organisations and set up on their own, working in 2-5 person outfits, feeding off the bigger players. We might find they start avoiding university, too.