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Opinion: The Value of my "Micky Mouse" degree



First things first, I like to keep political matters away from my work generally speaking. In my career and line-of-work my priority is to tell people’s stories and provide entertainment. On occasion I like to do this with the intention of supporting a cause that means a lot to me. Generally, however, I keep my work away from political matters. 


That being said, with the general election now imminent, I still keep up with what’s going on. One topic brought to light by all of this is the issue of what is being called “Micky Mouse Degrees” and replacing them with apprenticeships. In short, the “Micky Mouse Degree” is something that is considered a waste of time; more specifically, anything that doesn’t provide a skill that effectively inputs into the economy. More to the point, nothing to do with Science and Maths and isn’t an occupational degree like Law or Medicine. The terms are still fairly vague around it, but that’s what I understand to be the general gist of it all. 


In a nutshell, it’s been an ongoing Conservative idea to scrap these degrees and replace them with apprenticeships that provide hard skills that have more practical use. Why do I want to talk about this? My degree is in English, I don’t think it’s a core-example of the kinds of degrees they are looking to scrap, but it’s not on the good list. English is a subject that universities are phasing out across the country slowly but surely, and there are a number of arguments to make the case that this degree is a “Micky Mouse Degree” by all accounts. 


I’m not here to offer a solution, but an opinion. I’ll talk about my degree, how I’ve used it and look at whether it was useful or not to me now I am 4 years out of university with a whole load of debt to my name. 


Overall, I think this wasn’t a waste as my prime-minister wants to make it out to be. There are certainly benefits I can clearly see from not having gone there, but at the same time the whole experience of being at university, past what the course gave me, has been incredibly valuable in shaping my work style and mindset moving forward.


There may be details left out that will cause arguments, but unfortunately, with this being my website, it’s my rules. If you want to talk about that, here’s a link to my contact section. If this introduction didn’t already insinuate, I’m also not going to claim to be up-to-date with the specifics of the politics, this is the opinion of a man who enjoys writing for the website.


My Degree was a Waste


Yes. There are definitely ways in which you can look at where I am now, and agree that what I learned from my degree was wasted on me. 


As a brief summary, my career started about 9 months after I officially finished at university. I got a job as a copy-writer, funnily enough, as a result of having this blog and my degree. My job was to write long-form content for a company website that would serve the function of content marketing and would showcase the company I worked for as an authority on their subject. 


The problem was I was crap at it. I enjoy writing and have had enough praise to know I’m good at it, but when it comes to being very directed for a very specific purpose, I can lose interest very quickly. Keywords and SEO requirements make me lose interest very fast, perhaps it would have been different if ChatGPT had arrived at this time, but I really couldn’t get on board with it. I was heading very much towards losing the job until I designed a logo for them. 


Bit of context, prior to this I was starting out making the Ashley Bickerton film, and so knew enough about Adobe Creative Softwares to be competent. Once I made that logo, the game changed and I had a new role in this company. I became a graphic designer and video editor. 


Since then that has been my career, I moved to London to do filmwork, graphic design and more editing. Every company I moved to I was doing graphic design for largely marketing functions. When I wasn’t doing that, I was usually out doing photography and video-work in a freelance capacity until now, when I am full-time freelance videographer and photographer making videos to help market other people, their stories and their companies. 


Writing only recently got reintroduced as I provide for this blog on a bi-weekly basis. In essence, my career is almost entirely based in visuals and lacks words. This is to say, all the time I spent learning to write essays and construct arguments on books has in effect been for absolutely nothing. 


This gets even better when I tell people I barely read now. I’m much more of an audio-book person now, and find I rarely have the patience to read anything past news articles and opinions on the internet. I probably make it through about 3 books a year, and as I said the introduction of audio-books into my life (thanks Spotify) means I barely do any physical reading of books anyway. In fact, I’ve found I rarely have patience. When I do want to read, I start with the goal of doing 10 pages a day, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Reading has become more of discipline for me than a hobby, ironic given I spent 3 years reading. 


Would I have benefitted from an apprenticeship? Absolutely. There are skills I’m learning now that I could have picked up much younger if I’d chosen a practical course or job where I had the space to develop those skills. I also would be much further, and probably more secure in my career-path had I avoided university entirely. I don’t think there’s any doubt that I would have a much more secure lifestyle. 


I’m not the only person who has turned an English university degree into a career-path that seldom requires words. Es Devlin received an undergraduate English degree from Bristol and is now a world famous artist designing sets for shows around the world. She’s brilliant at it and has had a successful career, but I’m sure even she agrees she could have got there faster without her degree. 


Now I loved my degree, it was a subject I was fascinated by and I really enjoyed the stuff I got to study. But all things considered, is this just an expensive hobby that the government funded? I’ve barely made a dent in my loan repayments and it wouldn’t surprise me if I never paid it back (to any government officials out there, this is far from my intention). From an economic stand point this degree can be seen as a waste of resources. 


My Degree, however, was not a Waste. 


My job now is as a freelance videographer and photographer providing content to market. In short, I call myself a story-teller. I create narratives that connect you to the audience you want to approach, I make sure the story is constructed in such a way that it aligns with your target audience on a largely emotional level. My English degree is perfectly poised to give me the skills to do this. 


To understand the literature, you need to understand the context. It is the culture and society that the book panders to, and the most successful literature spoke most truly to the issues of the time. Shakespeare’s plays were so popular because they spoke to the cultural issues that were affecting London in the 16th and 17th centuries. Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man was such a hit because it laid out philosophies and observations that fascinated audiences at the time. 


That was just one element, then it was pin-pointing the right moments that conveyed that power. The specific words, the tone, what kind of structures and formats were being used and why were they so effective. That analysis also included evaluation, challenging the ideas by exploring different nuances of the culture the literature was published in. 


To understand why these pieces of literature were so powerful at the time, I had to understand the time itself and what the current issues were. This way of thinking is crucial to how I work now, and so I give full credit to my degree for fixing me with this mindset for how I approach my work. 


None of this skill would be effective, however, if I didn’t know how to formulate an argument. No surprises that essay-writing was a big part of my degree, and to be good at that you needed to have an ability to communicate with clarity. Sometimes that required learning big words, but largely it was down to how do you structure something? 


My structuring usually went as follows: What is the idea? Why is the idea important in the context, and what kind of challenges arise? What’s the best conclusion I can come to given all of this? 


This structuring has now gone beyond university and basically informs every story I tell now, and you’ll more than likely be able to see it in the blogs I produce for this website, especially this one.


There’s also the matter of exams. Now, luckily for me, I rarely find myself in a situation now where I’m having to write full formulated essays within an hour and a half (unless I’ve made a poor judgement of my time-management), but I suppose there’s an argument for me to say it’s helped me in my ability to formulate arguments under pressure using the facts that I know. 


But far from just the benefits university brought to my approach to my work, it also taught me hard-life skills that are invaluable to how I live now. Let’s be honest, were I to be doing an apprenticeship instead of my degree, I would be living with my parents still. 


No two-words about it, when I look back at the 18-year-old who left home turned up to my university halls, my life-skills were nothing short of moronic. The importance of diet was largely lost on me, salt-and-pepper were incredible revelation in the world of flavour. It had never occurred to me that spin-cycles stop your clothes from dripping water once they’re washed. When I got my loan, I thought of it as a fantastic way to buy take-aways and get rounds of jaeger-bombs (as an aside, my liver and I definitely miss how these used to be fun drinks and the “hangover” was non-existent, couldn’t be further from the truth now). My favourite memory was how I thought two dumbbells and a pint of protein-shake was the answer to a healthy-fitness regime. To my credit, I kept to a banana a day, a routine I have even now.


University taught me some hard lessons about these matters, and I’m all the better for it now. I wouldn’t say I’m a finished product of an adult yet, but I’m certainly not a moron. Part-time work helps me live a better lifestyle and keeps me financially stable, money is spent much better. Paprika, Oregano, Cumin, Tarragon, just some of the herbs and spices that were introduced to my life. When I wash clothes, I let them dry as well, either by machine or hanging. Health is improved by miles, not just through the revelation of the gymnasium, but also being careful about the foods I consume and knowing that my body is an eco-system. 


It also allowed me to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. My university was in the south, so far south actually that I once heard someone claim the north was “anywhere above Oxford.” Being from Nottingham, I was an outlier, and so I got to meet people with different perspectives and backgrounds. I got to learn what southerners do and think, and realise it’s not so different to me, except everyone seems to know more about the M25 ring road. I once got told by my tutor that moving south must have been a “culture-shock.” I think it’s an extreme to call it that, but it was definitely eye-opening in at least a small way.


Not just that, going to university gave me an opportunity to live abroad, where I fulfilled a childhood dream of living on the West Coast of Canada. Perspectives shifted massively, I learned everyone thinks I was Australian, and cultures and attitudes are hugely different. I got to learn about the politics of a place, and how such a giant country can hold an unbelievable amount of perspectives. I even learned to appreciate our national-rail a bit more, and easy travel is in the UK, even though other factors mean it’s really not that simple nowadays. 


All to say, university geared me up to be an adult. There were other life-lessons a little too personal for a light-hearted opinion blog, but the point is made. 


Conclusion


There’s not much more of a conclusion to reach, other than saying these are my thoughts on the idea of scrapping the so-called “Micky Mouse Degrees.” I think overall my degree was crucial to the way I think, formulate ideas and approach my work, whether that be words-based or not. 


I appreciate not everyone is in my exact position, but still I think these work skills are incredibly important to any walk-of-life and are what make degrees in humanities and the arts so good. Far from being taught how to operate in a laboratory or logically work through problems, we are taught to think and use our perspectives. We are not all there to improve a nation’s economic stability, we’re there to entertain an audience, help them connect and tell stories. These people are needed all over the place, and I hold that using these degrees to give people the space to grow and develop in these skills is still crucial, certainly better than focusing entirely on the practical skills that an apprenticeship would provide. 


Those are my thoughts on the matter. Thanks. 



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