The amount of Gary V Musk zealots in our collective circles undermining university education and calling it unnecessary in 'this day and age' is sort of concerning.
The fundamental ideas these people usually adhere to are that everything is available online and can be studied without attending a university and you do not need to attend universities to secure employment and earn more.
Almost everything that was taught in universities was available in libraries for decades before the internet. Public libraries made it accessible to a wider community in the past. The Internet burst the bubble of inaccessibility worldwide and interconnected the intellectual communities. The Internet for education is in a sense a network of interconnected libraries.
While the accessibility issue has been promptly resolved for the readable knowledge in every form e.g. written, visual, auditory, the position of universities has stayed the same since the beginning if not broadened.
Universities are made to connect intellectual circles throughout disciplines. These are not places to provide linear education with technical skills that one may often learn on the internet. These are not mere institutions meant to transfer certain knowledge from texts and videos to the students but to develop and transform their intellectual capabilities.
When a disciple learns directly from different masters in several fields, it opens their mind to a different world where the primary realisation one may come across is that there is no end to learning.
That is why rigorous liberal arts education is sought after so much by so many people. There is no doubt that one can simply attend a training centre or technical school or even a technical program inside a university system to learn modern-day intellectually linear skills and work to earn.
However, in genuine university education, there would be no two people who would have the same learning path. There would be no need for a university if the knowledge was so perfect to be simply transferred to a mass community.
Throughout my undergraduate years, I had the privilege to learn from some amazing professors, 'masters', from several institutions taking unique courses like politics of pandemics, history of money, building democracy and peace, interpreting literary and artwork, and topics in intercultural and computer-mediated communication among many others.
These are lessons you learn on the go with the intellectual circles meeting in a classroom along with the professors, i.e., the 'masters', and a lot of the knowledge as compiled in the seminars or classes would not exist outside this intellectual circle unless researched specifically by a new group of intellectuals.
On top of that, every honours student in a university does their thesis in their field which is unique. As I said earlier, no two students in a genuine university program would have the same learning path.
While I can personally interconnect the knowledge I have gained throughout the journey for my collective goals, if these were to be taught as mandatory pass courses for everyone in a program there would be no further enrichment in the contents or outcomes of these topics. They would just turn out to be another English 101 class.
Universities were not built to teach students how to stock a shelf, but rather to study the reasons behind using a shelf and the socioeconomic position of a shelf in a humane society and how to improve it for the masses.
If you are in it to study a shelf for collective intellectual growth, great! Spend your time learning and learning, and never stop until you think you have contributed enough; which is never.
If you are in it to learn how to stock shelves and make big bucks, there are better places that can help you work at some billionaire's company.
Comic relief aside, don't waste your savings if all you want to do is earn for yourself and live a high life. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mindset, priorities differ from person to person for many reasons beyond individual control.
The questions should rather be, why do we keep looking for a university degree for a technical job aiding so many technical degrees in a university system instead of technical schools? Should we let random places regard themselves as universities instead of specialized institutions or colleges?
These questions have interesting answers but I would rather not write an entire paper here.
Hamid Yasir is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK and the President of the Union Collegiate System in Halifax, Canada.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.