Advice About Which University to Choose

A few weeks ago, I did a short speech at “Yes we can! US Uni Advisor Training Conference”. In my usual style, my slides are image-based and don’t make any sense at all unless you hear the speech. The organisers therefore asked me to provide some notes and I thought someone might find them useful here too.

If you’re wondering what on earth I was doing speaking at such a gathering, that’s a good point! I was invited by a friend, who was organising the event, to talk about what the entrepreneurial employer might look for in a graduate, with the contrasting view given by a senior Goldman Sachs recruiter.

You can see the slides here, if you’re curious.

I started off by talking about the exponential world in which we live – with change driven faster and faster by technology. This was accompanied by my almost-famous story about the drop of water in the stadium. It’s a great way to explain quickly and dramatically about what “exponential change” actually means and puts the audience in the right frame of mind.

The exponential effect makes it very hard for us to understand what’s happening and thus, make good decisions – whether about our businesses or personal lives.

In that context, I briefly talked about how some key professions, traditionally the home of middle class graduates, would radically change over the coming years.

- 3D Printing (or Additive Printing/Manufacturing as us cool kids call it now) is going to decimate manufacturing, consumer goods and perhaps whole economies.

- Medicine. As an example, with the current X Prize being the Star Trekian Tricorder, the triage that is the main role of GPs, would likely disappear.

- Armed Forces. With 40% of the US Department of Defense aircraft already being remotely operated drones, it’s clear that conflict is also going to change exponentially.

- Education itself is being fundamentally disrupted, with projects like The Khan Academy making world class teaching via YouTube free for all global citizens.

I’ve written more about this kind of thing here.

My final example of disruption was to repeat my oft-quoted mantra that the mobile will do to the PC, what the PC did to the mainframe.

My conclusion to this was that faced with all this change and the radical redistribution of wealth that will almost certainly accompany it, today’s student faced with the “which Uni?” question has three choices:

1. For the vocational professions (such as medicine, engineering etc) you pretty much have to carry on and do a degree in that subject, even though you realise that most of what you learn will be irrelevant by the time you’re even a few years into your career.

2. For the rest of them, they must chose a course that will teach them how to think and thrive in a world of ever-faster change. Or

3. Just day “No” to the idea of Uni altogether in favour of learning at the sharp end. Get a job, especially in a tech startup and you’ll probably find a better grounding for tomorrow’s challenges than any other available.

I got some great feedback from attendees generally and a few more invitations to speak in an educational context. So, watch this space for more news. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about this challenging subject, especially if you disagree, please leave a comment or link back from your own blog.

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