Laurie Taylor Column

September 14, 2007

What is your degree worth to an employer? According to Anna Vignoles, a leading education economist, student tuition fees should be based on the worth of the degree to employers - The Times Higher, September 7.

Jamie Targett, director of corporate affairs, was quick to rise to the challenge.

What did George Melrose, managing director of one of the area's principal employers, Poppleton Pork Products, think of the proposal?

Were there any Poppleton degrees he particularly valued? Perhaps media and cultural studies?

"Don't bloody ask. My lass did that at school and all they did was sit around all day and watch Coronation Street and talk about what a lot of strong women there was in it when you compared it with other programmes."

Physics perhaps?

"That could be a goer. Particularly if they've done a bit of plumbing. That can be very important in the mincing shed when we've got a big rush on. You can easily get old fat clogging up the swilling tubes."

English?

"Not really. Sort of people who want to put sage in the mixing trough.

"Now, if you had a degree in Polish..."

Psychology?

"Dead against it. We had a lad who'd done psychology working with us one holiday. He started talking to the boys in the bone jelly department and before you could say Jack Robinson they were all piling into my office claiming to suffer from occupational stress. They only had it when they knew about it."

Philosophy?

"I'll be frank. There's no room for existentialism when there's 500 pork pies that need filling with minced pig butt and a dollop of pink colouring."

After the interview, Mr Targett, director of corporate affairs, said that he would be placing Mr Melrose's comments before Poppleton's academic board.

"In our complex goal-oriented society, the marketisation of degrees is becoming of increasing importance, going forward," he said.

"Mr Melrose reminds us that higher education should not be about pies in the sky, but the crinkle-cut ones in the nearest grouting shed."

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