With 600 000 BA graduates currently unable to find jobs, matriculates deciding what to study at university should consider whether or not their degree will make them employable.

The Politics Society hosted Jeffrey Sehume, an academic and researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) to discuss the value of a BA degree in today’s economically-unfriendly environment.

Sehume highlighted the “transdisciplinary” approach to education which encourages a holistic, non-abstract alternative to the “grand narratives” followed when studying subjects like politics, psychology or anthropology.

“Universities are about minds, not markets” said Sehume. He said that the BA degree “went wrong” in the late 80’s when “real life problems fell away to text”, and that academic writing and ideas became “only of concern to one another”.

Sehume discussed how educational models used by the “Asian tigers” had evolved from the ability to memorise and repeat to a focus on analytical abilities and taking ownership of knowledge production.

In the discussion, 3rd year Bandile Ngidi asked if it was possible to “manufacture passion” for subjects where jobs are available, namely the science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The “STEM” industry has over 800 000 positions which need to be filled. 

Sehume said that unfortunately “academic learning is not enough” and that if BA students cannot find jobs they should apply for the various FET colleges, which the government has allocated substantial funding to develop.

However Sehume did emphasise that universities play a role in society that is not confined to learning certain skills but allow a place in society where people can learn ethics, critical analytical skills and a chance to understand the interconnectedness of society’s issues.