Imagine if a degree course was a race

A Federal Education Department study, published in The Australian on November 5, 2017, showed an alarming drop-out rate for students.

Over a third of students failed to finish their degree.

Over a half did not complete their degree course in the set time.

This has been attributed to many things.

One idea has been that the expectation going into the course is very different from the experience of the course.

It starts before a student chooses where to go for their degree.

When choosing a degree course, most students will make their decision based on what most universities talk about.

Most universities will talk about reputation or quality of education or heavily imply how the course will, quite likely, get you a job.

For would-be negotiators, or potential philosophers, this is called, “Framing the Conversation.”

Universities talk about the things they’re good at, which students also want.

What most universities don’t talk about is the length of time it takes to get a degree.

Or how hard it is to get one-on-one attention from an academic in a room full of 600 students.

Or what that means to students.

The answer might lie in reframing the conversation.

If we saw the choice not as “What degree do I want?” but rather “Which institution do I want to spend six semesters at?” or “Why would I spend six semesters there?” the answers would be different.

Think about what it takes to stick at a degree – to be able to soak up the knowledge you need, to gain the career skills you want – over six semesters.

A degree course is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you talk to any marathoner, they will tell you the importance of a support team.

Someone, or a number of someones, who can provide specialist assistance when it’s required.

It’s this available assistance which separates larger public institutions from smaller private institutions, like the Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Smaller class sizes mean more access to academics. Larger student to staff ratios means more support from staff, to keep students on track. Little wonder that MIT see themselves as a team.

It’s a highly supportive approach. And the quality of the degree is supported by the government. No institution can say the work won’t be hard. But, if you are going to commit to doing the work, isn’t it best to choose a place where help is at hand when the going gets particularly tough.

As any marathoner can tell you, the reputation of the course doesn’t help you when you’re struggling through the middle section of the race. But to have a friendly face on hand with what you need, when you need it, can be the difference between dropping out and finishing.