Student debt crisis: Does every kid need to go to university?

Is university worthwhile for all young people?

My experience teaching at university (including 10 years at Western Sydney University) was a heap of kids being trained to be academic when that wasn’t really their thing and wasn’t really going to help them in life.

Meanwhile, they and the whole country, rack up a massive debt.

What’s it paying for? Big expensive uni campuses, academics and uni staff.

Yes, education is important. And the ability to think about the world is important.

But there are many better ways to help young people fulfil their potential and make this country a better place. Less expensive and more beneficial than sending them all to uni (which has been the goal in Australia for years.)

If you’ve seen Ken Robinson’s famous TED Talk you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen it, you really should —

Sir Ken claims we’re gearing kids for university right from early school and questions the wisdom of it. (Few people have really done this which is why his talk shook things up.) His proposition is we should be helping young people find and nurture their natural talents and abilities.

Universities don’t do this. And they’re costing everyone a lot of money to run.

Is the autopilot of funnelling the majority of kids to uni really the best use of our time and money?

It’s time to think different about education.


What spurred me on to write this piece is the news that Australia is facing a massive blowout of student loan fees in the coming decade. We’ve been encouraging everyone to go to uni without even thinking.

I’ve taught in universities for years. I’ve seen how much they cost to run. I’ve seen the standard of the work turned in by students drop — and drop in line with the constant lowering of the entry score to get into uni. It really felt like a sausage factory to me: get them in to pay for all the huge overheads to run the place.

And worst of all, despite all the rhetoric from universities, a lot of the kids by their final year were still very unsure about what they were going to do with their lives and hadn’t really explored their real passions and interests. The stuff that Ken Robinson talks about.

Was that 3 years and $30,000 debt really worth it? I’m not convinced.

Photo by Jason James