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Usefulness of a BA

  • April 29th, 2014

Massey University is anonymously surveying employers to find what they look for from job-seekers with BA tickets.

No doubt the University will get eloquent argument in support of various arcane studies. Plus pleas for simple assurance of an ability to read perceptively, to think analytically and to write with clear meanings.

But there would be really simple advice to universities if employers were ruthlessly honest about the primary purpose in asking for degree qualifications. Degree courses are mainly quality sieves, set to filter for ability, plus certain virtues. A degree employer wants to increase the probablitiy that the holder is on the right hand side of the bell curve on qualities like intelligence, diligence, ability to persevere, and the ability to understand and to act on instructions.

Many look for specialist and vocational degrees where the subject knowledge is completely irrelevant, simply because of a view that the BA filter is too unreliable.

I would be surprised if any employers have a definitive interest in a BA degree holders' specialist knowledge even where they have decided that a BA is sufficient. It is perhaps nice to think that the graduate has acquired the polish of some minimum familiarity with our civilisation's accumulated self awareness. General knowledge may reflect and stimulate comprehension of events and people (perhaps?). But if the graduate proves to have that store of information it will commonly be a bonus, not the object of preferring a degree holder.

Employers may look to see what the BA  job-seeker has studied nevertheless. But more often than any teacher might want to know, it is probably just to see whether the degree contains anything that might have tested for rigour, objectivity, or ability to write. If all the subjects are of the social science/basket-weaving/tell-us-your feelings-and-fashionable-political-prejudices variety, or are otherwise notorious for low standards, the degree may be termed useless. But that is not because of greater need for the intrinsic knowledge of the subjects. It is simply that the choice of subjects is thought to be indicative of the fineness of the sieve. What is most likely to be taught and examined more rigorously?

Unfortunately the universities are paid to ignore advice to forget about fiddling with content, and  make the filter more reliable instead. Tightening up could be welcome to teachers who believe in the importance of their learning even if employers are not asking for more knowledge. But the 'bums on seats' payment regime makes it unprofitable to fail low quality students.

Theoretically, over the long term, schools, courses and universities with better reputation should attract more students who want to find work more easily, with better starting salaries. But reputation and differentiation require long term investment. There may not be enough people in many university positions who can afford to insist on such long term investment, and expect to be around to benefit.


  • A colleague
  • April 30th, 2014
  • 10:19 am

The screening applies to relationships as well. An important role for a university degree is to increase the odds of your child marrying well. It performs several traditional matchmaking functions. Doesn’t always work, tho…..

  • Robert M
  • May 2nd, 2014
  • 2:55 pm

The blog in the last minute may have gone through without my email as above.
Robert Miles

  • Robert M
  • May 3rd, 2014
  • 9:44 pm

Well of course my previous blog seems to have been wiped. I had two periods at varsity in the mid and late 1970's and in the first decade of the 21c. When I returned to varsity in 1999/2000 nothing seemed to have changed , you could still pass a Economics I or Commercial Law exam on near zero attendance and the pure exam. But during Helen Clark reign the system was destroyed and paper became marked pure presentation and PC. You were failed if you didn't agree to total appeasement of the gay and Palestine cause. But the corruption is greater in terms of law papers where passing requires never challenging the position of MFAT and the Police.As far as I am concerned I was never given any chance in the University of Canterbury Law School in 2001 or Vic Law School in 2003. At Vic I could never attend the lectures because of clashes with Commercial Law school that I knew I could pass to maitain my funding and the the wahine responsible for the streaming of the two PUblic Law steams would not cooperate with me for minute. So fuck the fagots Evans and Joseph because I was never given any chance. I am a world class defense writer from the greatest UK military and political families and I have never given zero chance here and they should smash the Canterbury Law and Sociology departments because the essential credential is to have anA pass in NZ inPublic Law and without it truth had no chance in this country. Greg Newbolt is even more undescrible criminal scum, he ended my academic career by giving me 0/100.

[violent threat removed].

  • Robert M
  • May 5th, 2014
  • 1:53 pm

A Colleague is right to an extent, the Canterbury Law School was in part a high class mating or marriage bureau for good looking females and pedigree males. Some courses and degrees certainly attract the good looking and trendy, a few years ago Geography had become very popular and History and Political Science much less so than in the 1970s. One very noticeable thing is that in Commerce the females are very ordinary, rarely are they good looking and the Theresa Gattung plain types are common. That some advantage in that theirs no distraction. In something like History honours, every female is gorgous and with quite a few overseas sex communism, an no male is likely to survive the course. Generally only squeakers do in law school.
I can not recall threatening anybody in the previous blog and it appears as i wrote without editing. Elaboraton on who inserted the final bracketed comment would be helpful.
In general I have never applogised for my hardlne dislike of Sue Bradford,Helen Kelly and Coddington. Bradford is a destructive communist and should never have been allowed to enter parliament. When Matthew Hotton says she is a friend , she is beyond the limits of stupidity and in it indicates there is no actual right in the country. I will never apologise to Bradford, Kelly or Coddington but I certainly made no comment about them in the previous entry and I am not violent or intimidation personally.

  • twr
  • May 6th, 2014
  • 7:37 pm

From what I’ve found when hiring people, degrees mean nothing. Many good quality people attain one, however it’s not a filter for whether you can actually do anything, which is the problem.


very funny Stephen, some people have no proper qualification necessary
every day true qualification
We will take our beloved New Zealand to a great country , get ready Stephen, we can do it.
Qualification true

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