Some people think that universities should provide graduates with the knowledge and skills needed in the workplace. Others think that the true function of a university should be to give access to knowledge for its own sake, regardless of whether the course is useful to an employer. What, in your opinion, should be the main function of a university?
In the midst of financial turmoil and massive layoffs, it is understandable that the majority of university students think of their future job security as a pressing priority. Accordingly, they tend to regard universities primarily as institutions where employment skills can be acquired.
This is especially true when we consider the fact that the cost of tuition and fees has been rising each year, which means too many, pursuing higher education is very much like making a substantial investment. Thus, university students and their parents alike tend to expect reasonable rates of return that can be, to some degree, quantified by the job skills students possess.
Still, I wish to point out that merely equipping students with employment skills may defeat the very purpose of universities as educational institutions. Realistically, it would be very hard for university administrators and faculty to determine what technical skills and knowledge will be needed three or four years from now as the technology in many areas is updating itself on a daily basis. What will also be at risk is the students’ capacity to innovate because true innovations require thorough understanding of fundamental theories in the related fields rather than the ability to apply these theories in the workplace, which is exactly how we define the employment skill.
The main function of universities, therefore, should be building core curricula that stress the fostering of employment skills while at the same time, providing students with electives on the theoretical aspects of their fields of interest, which not only facilitates their grasp of job skills but ensures their capacity to apply these skills innovatively as well.
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