"Everyone wants a graduate person."

We spoke to students enrolled in degree programs and asked them what they thought about the value of that piece of paper.

"Everyone wants a graduate person."
Photo by JJ Ying / Unsplash

Written by Dr. Taapsi Ramchandani

My research team is playing the long game trying to monitor the changing tide (or perhaps undercurrents?) of student perspectives on degree versus micro-certifications and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Today I’ll share some about what students enrolled in degree programs think about the value of that piece of paper.

By the way….

If you think you shouldn’t read this newsletter because student experiences don’t concern you particularly, indulge me for a second. How the workforce of the future perceives the continued relevance of degree programs impacts all these stakeholders. Perhaps you are one of them?

  • Founders, writ large, building their teams of the future
  • Edtech founders designing student experiences based on pain points and desired gains
  • HR recruiters crafting human resource policies
  • Bricks-and-mortar educational institutions spending crores on infrastructure and faculty
  • (not to forget) Parents losing sleep over their child’s imagined future.

Let’s get to it.

For Zoomers, pursuing a degree is a pragmatic decision.

Zoomers are pragmatic and calculated about their future plans. No matter where they want to end up, degrees offer the fastest way to get there. They signal credentials. For this, Zoomers will do it. Getting a degree also means getting a parent off your back… temporarily. Another reason they’ll do it. Degrees can also be stepping stones to a career abroad. You get the drift.

Q: What did you think getting a degree would do for you?
A: I think, at this point...previously, the diploma was like, good for employment basis, and all the things you learn are always good...but at this point of time, there is no value for diploma...everyone wants a graduate person, every company wants a graduate person. They hire higher diploma students, but after like, they have a contract for two to three years...after that the company tells them to go get a degree. So I thought, if I went to the company, I know that I would’ve gotten selected, but after two to three years, they will tell me without telling me that ‘ja jaake degree kar le’. And then that point, I think, I will not be able to study, woh 2-3 saal ka gap aata hai (there will be a gap of 2-3 years).

Degrees matter because placements are a concern.

Here’s a functionalist reason for a degree that continues to stand the test of time- The job-to-be-done by a formal degree is to get a job! It’s why when it comes to deciding where to get that degree, brand name matters. For alumni access. For social capital.

Q: How does the lack of college placements make you feel?
A: I think, my main source of fear was that... I would not get an internship... my friends are not gonna say that I'm any less than them, in terms of skills, or in terms of soft skills or technical skills, it's just that I was, you know, sort of focusing on the fact that eventually they will have more opportunities in life. And I think the perception I had of getting a good job, a well paying job right out of college - that was the number one thing my life that back then, because my friends were getting those as well, right?It was the perception till then. Getting a well paid job earns you more respect, naturally for this society sort of right? So yeah, you getting into the Amazon job is a huge thing for your family, to brag about in front of their relatives.

But micro-courses aren’t going anywhere.

It’s interesting to see pragmatic narratives coalescing around degree programs. Because it begs the question, if the brain is winning this battle then where is the heart occupied?

Micro-courses are in a polyamorous relationship - supplementing degree credentials on the one hand, and keeping the fire of passion projects burning on the other hand.

Q: Have you spent time on MOOCs like Coursera, EdX as well?
A: Coursera I've done a lot of courses, and it's more self-paced, that's good. And it's like a combination of a lot of videos that you can see, and a lot of...quick quizzes that you can do, so that's interesting. EdX is more technical, so if you're more of a visual learner then Coursera is more for you. But if you’re more of a information-after-information kind of learner, who likes to do research and who can handle a lot of information then EdX is more for you.

In short, micro-credentialing might help these students have their cake and eat it too. And they know it.

In other news...

It appears that when it comes to accepting a placement offer after committing to that degree, brand name matter less. The pursuit of happiness, balance, passion … these so-called lofty considerations are ushered into the spotlight as students mentally negotiate where there should begin their journey of work.

Poocho has partnered with People Konnect to explore the look and feel of “The Great Resignation” amongst early stage and late stage professionals. Anjali Gulati, People Konnect’s founder, is a force to reckon with in the HR recruiting, consulting and D&I space. I’ll be sharing insights from our conversations on the Future of Hiring on LinkedIn and other platforms soon.

Onward and upward.

CaratLane’s COO Avnish Anand on Poocho data:

"The way you guys went about the research gave me more confidence in the process and in using ethnographic research methods. You could see the details for each customer. You could see the granularity of the study. The amount of data that came out was the most important."