This system sucks the life from me {The Graduate Premium Myth}

Why call this “This system sucks the life from me {The Graduate Premium Myth}”?

I wanted to make an artwork about my frustrations with my perceptions of how University education is heading and about anxieties and anger surrounding the issue of Student debt – People are easier to control, easier to manipulate when they are in debt.

I wanted to comment on the myth of “the Graduate Premium”– which is going down year on year, as tuition fees are going up and up. A young graduate couple with joint debts upwards of £60,000 are not going to cause any employer any problems regardless of their diminishing employment rights.

In my exhibition artworks I wanted to include modern day examples reference to anthropologist David Graeber’s definition of “Structural violence” describes the systematic ways in which social and societal structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals.
Structural violence is subtle, often invisible, and often has no one specific person who can (or will) be held responsible (in contrast to behavioural violence).

Today, somewhere between 40% and 50% of each generation goes to university (as high as 50% for women, lower for men). But the price of this has been the loss of freedoms – both intellectual and financial – as rising fees have replaced grants and modularisation and assessment have reduced education to training.

Capitalism once offered free education for an elite (3.4% in 1950, <10% in 1970), it now offers debt-burdened training for the masses. Now universities feed the call centres.

Capitalism has expanded access to universities the only way it knows how – by turning education into a commodity and universities into businesses.

Below my images are some extensive reports into the issues surrounding the commodification of Education and associated fears and implications.

Below is a lecture by  Noam Chomsky (July, 2013) “The Corporatization of the University”

Published on Jul 21, 2013
Fascinating **NEW** Lecture by Prof. Noam Chomsky on the corporatization of the university.
Date – July 12, 2013
Please share with other Chomsky fans after watching.

1,300 universities, one shared fear: the commodification of education | News | Times Higher Education

Recently (10/4/14) a report by the Huffington Post entitled “Students Will Still Be Paying Back Tuition Fee Loans In Their 50s, Study Warns” – covered the release of a report by the Sutton Trust.


The vast majority of students will still be paying back university tuition fee loans when they are in their early 50s, and many will never repay their debt, meaning the government will lose millions of pounds.

A new study suggests that almost three-quarters of graduates will have at least some of their loan written off under the new regime, with the average amount wiped out standing at around £30,000. The government recently admitted around 45% of graduates will never earn enough to pay back their loans.

The Sutton Trust, which commissioned the research, said the findings showed that the new fee system could leave professionals such as teachers in a position where they have to find cash to cover loan repayments at a time when their family and living costs, such as mortgage payments, are at a peak.

Under major reforms of university finances, tuition fees were raised to a maximum of £9,000 a year in 2012, almost treble the previous fee which stood at around £3,000.

Students do not start repaying their loans until after they have graduated and are earning at least £21,000 a year, at a rate of 9% on all income above this threshold. This compares with a £15,795 threshold in 2012 for the old system. Debts are written off after 30 years.

report continues…

The Graduate Premium myth.

(Laurie Penny, The Guardian, Monday 21 April 2014)

…higher education was meant to be about reading lots, meeting new people, and getting excited about ideas.

However, it turned out that higher education is actually just about making yourself more “employable“.

It's about fashioning yourself into a walking CV to compete for a stagnant pool of graduate 
jobs that are paid less in real terms every year, and taking on a rotten amount of debt in 
the process.

This week news quietly broke that the extra money a degree is supposed to earn you over the course of a lifetime – the “graduate premium” – is going down year on year, even as tuition fees are going up. Today’s students are paying nine times what I paid in 2007 and, according to one government adviser, up to 40% of the class of 2012 may default on their student loans.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – named in honour of this government’s order of priorities – is keen for us all to remember that graduates can still expect to earn an extra £100,000 in a lifetime. However, if you want to play the game of obfuscatory averages, that figure must be balanced against the average debt of £44,000 that students are taking on. Over a working life of 45 years (assuming they can afford to retire) that would leave students with net earnings of just £1,244 a year. That’s if they can actually find a job that pays enough to live in the town or city where the job is located. These are the sort of mercenary calculations to which the value of learning has been reduced.

The report continues… LINK

“Student loans are destroying the imagination of youth. If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, joyous people in your society and saddle them with, like $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes your music. There goes your culture. There goes everything new that would pop out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate the interesting, creative and eccentric people.”
— David Graeber


maybe, the de-institutionalisation of education and it’s integration as an everyday function of life in a human community might even involve ‘burning down the universities’ – metaphorically speaking!

“incendemus Academiis”?

More News Stories

Arts and humanities departments across UK universities spend significant time and effort recruiting PhD students to study with them.

Yet concern for such students and their futures seems to start and end with getting them through the door and to the end of their programmes of study.

With too many fledgling academics and not enough entry-level jobs into the academy, why aren’t institutions and permanent members of staff doing more to bridge the gulf between PhD and post-doc?

Departments up and down the country spend increasing amounts of time incorporating “employability” into the subjects and courses they teach at undergraduate level. They recognise that undergraduate students can no longer attend university purely for the love of a subject and the pursuit of intellectual enrichment.

Recognise the issue

Yet somehow, the very same institutions and academics have managed to avoid offering the same consideration when it comes to their PhD students. While everything might be done during the course of a postgraduate’s study to prepare them and their CV for the rigours of academic life, very little is said or done about the dire shortage of entry-level academic jobs…. Report continues via the link