You probably read William Chui’s article on whether you should get a degree or diploma. If you didn’t, this is what he said in a nutshell, “Don’t. It’s not worth it. Instead, enroll in an online class on Udemy or something.” I don’t agree.
Study hard. Get good grades. If you failed, repeat. And get a degree or diploma from a local university or abroad. It’s worth it.
But William Chui’s article doesn’t go without merit. You all agree that the quality of lecturers we have is largely questionable. Most are under qualified and some have no idea that we’re in the 21st Century.
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The universities in Zimbabwe make it even harder for me to disagree with William Chui. None of our universities are in the top 4,000 in the world. And the reason is obvious, we don’t do research and forget lecturing is teaching, research and community engagement.
I believe this is not because of poor funding but lack of innovation from both university management and academic staff. Did you know publishers give lecturers brand new books free of charge? And there are millions of dollars available for researchers especially those in developing countries?
Why then do I think going to university even in Zimbabwe is a good investment for your future?
This is why.
5 reasons you should get a university degree
1. Days of accidental millionaires are behind us
The 21st Century fosters intellectual entrepreneurship. In the US, 92% of tech startup founders have a bachelor’s degree, 31% a master’s and 10% a PhD. We are living in a time where students start companies from their school projects. Isn’t that what Larry Page and Sergei Brin did in 1996 at Stanford University?
A student investigating impact of climate change on small scale farmers can develop a mobile app addressing that problem. If you’re doing library science or publishing degree, nothing can stop you from rethinking how Zimbabweans engage with books.
You think that’s impossible.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited ETH Zürich in Switzerland. I met a professor who had five students who turned their PhD dissertation into multimillion dollar manufacturing companies. Nothing can stop that from happening in Zimbabwe except your attitude as a student.
2. Folks with university degrees earn higher
Ten years ago, when I was on attachment, I earned probably twice more than the folks who were teaching me the job. The reason was simple, I was working on a first degree and they didn’t have an O Level certificate. It’s not fair, but that’s the reality of the world we’re living in.
If you’re still not convinced consider a 2014 study by Pew Research. Pew Research surveyed the annual income of people with a 4- and 2-year university degree or a high school diploma. This is what they found:
3. Those useless classes teach things useful tomorrow
I teach boring classes at a local university, process engineering classes to chemistry students. Process engineering doesn’t only help my students do the tedious and boring energy and material balances. It actually helps them in critical thinking. Importantly, it helps them to use systems and models in problem solving, skills every serious entrepreneur need.
You think I am lying, consider what Slack’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield said (Slack is the hottest startup at the moment, probably second to Uber, and it’s now valued more than US$4 billion, and Mr. Butterfield is now worth around US$500 million).
Studying philosophy taught me two things. I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.
4. University offers a rare chance for networking
I met the smartest people when I went to university. And the best thing is this, they’re now all my friends. I have a network of people with expertise in journalism, electrical engineering, chemistry, chemical engineering and I am a environmental scientist. I leave it upto you what type of startup I can pursue.
In one of the classes I took in university, we were required to start an income generating company. My team comprised of chemistry students only. But we developed a cosmetic product that used a locally available plant as the main ingredient. I hope one day we will go back to the idea and make money out of it.
Consider this advice from Kathrina Manalac, of Y Combinator, a US-based startup incubator providing seed funding to young entrepreneurs:
5. It’s not an either online or university choice
While I was studying for my PhD, I took classes from Coursera, EdX, Stanford Online, FutureLearn, Udacity, MasterClass ( a class on writing fiction taught by James Patterson), HubSpopt (an inbound marketing certification course), and Zondervan Academic (a class on Bible interpretation).
You don’t have to choose between university and taking online classes. You can do both. And as a university student you will get free internet on campus and discounted internet access off-campus. The good thing about these online classes is they offer verified certificate, at a fee of course.
Doing both will give you a competitive edge over your peers. Because in addition to having the basic accreditation, you will have the most upto date knowledge of your area of interest. Again online classes will complement the probably narrow scope of your degree. A person studying ICT can take an online class in philosophy or programming.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. These include the National University of Science and Technology and Institute of International Education, as well as the Institute of Environmental Science.
Edmond Sanganyado is a Fulbright scholar with a PhD in Environmental Toxicology. He teaches at National University of Science and Technology and writes at Pew Theology.