The Misplaced Academic Values

By: Kadence Buchanan

Based on endless discussions upon the usefulness of University degrees, it seems obvious that undergraduate and especially graduate students around the globe constantly wonder what the outcome of their efforts will be. Since perceptions and goals differ, so does the interpretation of the word outcome, especially when the complex issue of knowledge and academic performance is evaluated. Inside the realm of a University's environment, the outcome for most students is the actual value of their academic performance, the product of their intellectual exchange. Monetary or spiritual, the discussed value is usually interpreted as a product ready to be consumed by the private or public sector after the completion of the academic effort by the subject. But, is this interpretation a misconception, or the only outcome of contemporary Universities? Are students misusing the term or have they misplaced some of the values that used to govern the intellectual world?

In fact, making more money Hand reaching a desired social status are the main reasons that drive prospective students to pursue a degree. Future gains are considered to be the basic motivation that urges people to strive for superior academic performance. Moreover, the fierce competitive environment of every discipline forces the individual to identify new ways of excelling and increasing his/her bargaining power before facing an interested employer. This capitalistic notion of today's reality has forced institutions to recognize the power of monetary gains and has made the academic world a microcosm of this obvious shift in values. Under this social transformation and having to deal with these strong socioeconomic forces, Universities are challenged to survive as intellectual entities. In this altered environment, the academic changes that many scholars have identified have transformed modern Universities into corporate agents.

Moreover, the meaning of excellence has been altered. Nowadays, it is considered a synonym with quality of studies and is used as a basic marketing tool. Through this generic term, prospective students can be attracted and applications collected. A change has occurred to the initial intention of an application. Students do not enter an institution in order to acquire the intellectual pleasure of a degree, to elevate their knowledge, and increase their critical understanding regarding the world, but rather to acquire the intangible asset of a University's name as later this intangible asset will be translated in totally tangible outcomes. The most promising institution is the one which is most attractive to companies who wish to employ its alumni, since corporate managers have shifted their focus from what is taught inside a classroom to the physical location of that classroom. Thus, students who compete for the same corporate position tend to value differently the outcome of their studies. By evaluating their institutions' after-graduate appeal, as well as the rating scores issued by academic journals, students tend to consider their degree as a commodity rather than a reward for their intellectual struggle.

But the fact still remains that students enter a classroom ready to discuss, listen and share their beliefs. Depending on whether the existing academic environment promotes this intellectual exchange, students will shape their characters and value systems. There is no misconception of the role Universities play today. As different values penetrate an academic institution, its stakeholders integrate academic and social roles. These global citizens can give birth to the altered University's role, by accepting or rejecting the proposed changes during their time.

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