1. Decreasing Value of University Degrees
(and other academic certifications)

10+ Disruptive Factors Transforming the World of Education and Learning — Consequences, Opportunities, Tools

Robin Good
Jul 22, 2016 · 8 min read

In the previous chapter I have given you an overall perspective of the reasons why I think that the world of education and learning is being deeply transformed by a number of different factors, and how curation is playing a huge catalytic and operational role in this transformation.

Now, I will direct my focus to each one of the 20 and more factors that are directly affecting this revolutionary set of transformations while asking myself these specific questions:

  • What is this change about?
  • What is bringing it?
  • What consequences and opportunities is this change giving way to
  • Which are the tools that enable this change?

Why university degrees are losing their value

The overall value of university and college degrees are decreasing because:

  • degrees are no longer a guarantee of a getting a job
  • degrees are no longer a guarantee of a better pay
  • there is a growing number of alternative, free or low-cost learning paths that can be taken to learn new skills and earn oneself a living
  • information learned during college study is not always useful to actual work demands
  • many college/university degree programs offer little or no exposure to actual work practices
  • time (and money) is sacrificed to obtain an academic certification which could be instead used to learn on-the-job or to develop one’s own business
  • lots of time is needed to pay back loans obtained to get such degrees and certifications
  • there is a fast growing number of paid jobs and activities that do not require a university degree.

Outside of traditional “professionals” as doctors and engineers, companies recruiting new people are looking more for “skills and experience” than for degrees and certificates.

Fact: (in the US) 17 million college graduates have jobs that do not require a college degree.

That’s “over 30 percent of the working college graduates in the U.S.

Apparently, it’s the method that doesn’t work anymore. Certifications and diplomas prove little about a person skills and abilities in the real world.

Today, the job marketplace requires people who can “think”. People who can come up with creative solutions to unexpected problems, people who are prepared to be continuously challenged by new discoveries and innovations but who can discern which ones are relevant and immediately useful for their goals, and people who can recognize patterns and relationships across industries and disciplines to help them find new and better ways to achieve their objectives.

Curation offers a practical and immediately usable approach to help new learners train themselves in developing and mastering such very skills.

Last but not least, it should be also noted that an increasing number of alternatives to academic-based traditional certification systems are emerging.

These non-academic new certification systems have the power to dent into universities dearest asset: the lock between content being taught and the test/assessments that are supposed to certify a student competence on it.

These alternative certification systems are likely to provide alternative means for many individuals to demonstrate and be valued for their skills without a need to attend academic courses, to pay expensive tuition fees, to purchase new textbooks, and to pay for exam/certification costs.

Check also: What’s a Diploma Worth

Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.


  • Credential-driven students may be more disengaged than those who can afford to attend college for personal enrichment.
    (David F. Labaree, How to Succeed in School without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education, Yale University Press (1997), pages 32, 50, 259.)
  • Students look for alternative routes to find work and become sustainable.
  • Traditional colleges and universities gradually lose appeal and value.
  • College education is not anymore the best and most effective path to develop one’s own talents and to find a job (unless you want to be a doctor, architect, engineer, etc.).
  • Explosion in the number of online available courses offered outside academic institutions and on subjects typically not offered by these institutions.
  • These transformations are taking place at a much faster rate than academic institutions own traditional change-pace.


  • Universities and other academic institutions start curating educational resources for one or more specific areas of interest / language / region / by creating and maintaining highly qualified “learning paths”, and providing assistance, specialized training and resources, to those in specific need of it.
  • Growing interest for vocational jobs and for learning skills normally outside the traditional academic offerings as a consequence of the gradual loss of value of university degrees and their increasing costs.
  • More opportunities for learners to obtain reliable, affordable and trusted certification, outside of academia, for their abilities and skills.
  • New huge demand for learning skills outside the traditional curricula has not yet been met by enough reliable sources to help them evaluate and select these many alternative offerings.
  • Academic institutions can better manage their future sustainability by rapidly upgrading their role and function to where they could still provide a valuable and in-demand service to both society and individuals. Here a few simple ideas.

Move from teaching and certifying to:

  • a) curating talent — breed new talent by providing motivated learners with the ideal conditions to study, research and develop new ideas.
  • b) curating educational resources for a specific area of interest / language / region / by creating and maintaining highly qualified “learning paths”, and providing assistance, specialized training and resources, to those in specific need of it.
  • c) curating human guides, training future curators — by cultivating and supporting the development of skilled information-guides and coaches that possess the skills of a curator and of a great story-teller.


Work Opportunities without a Diploma
(an organized list of hundreds of income-earning activities that do not require having a university degree)

Credentialism and Education Inflation — Wikipedia
In Western society, there have been increasing requirements for formal qualifications or certification for jobs, a process called credentialism or professionalization. This process has, in turn, led to credential inflation (also known as credential creep, academic inflation or degree inflation), the process of inflation of the minimum credentials required for a given job and the simultaneous devaluation of the value of diplomas and degrees.”

The Diploma Vanishing Value — Wall Street Journal
Students who pick their major based solely on postgraduation salaries, as opposed to passion for a field, will in all likelihood struggle in both school and career. ... They will go deep into debt without ever knowing that they pursued a degree without a chance at a career or a job to pay off their loans.”

Is a College Degree Worth It in 2016? — The Hustle
The value of a college degree continues to be reexamined. Companies are putting more focus on hiring candidates with real-world experiences. More affordable alternatives to college are now available and the internet has allowed anyone to “get educated” from the comfort of their own home.

Not What It Used To Be-The Economist
American universities represent declining value for money to their students.

Thank you for reading.

I am Robin Good, an independent author / publisher with a terminal addiction: help others effectively communicate, learn and market their ideas by exploring new ethical venues, innovative strategies and uncharted territories outside the mainstream.

Discover more about curation right here:

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Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.

Robin Good

Written by

Explorer of new media technologies, communication design tools and strategies as enablers for 21st century individuals. Curation, collaboration, design.

Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.

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