The journal Studies in Higher Education, which publishes international research on higher education, has recently published a study entitled "Does university prestige lead to discrimination in the labor market? Evidence from a labor market field experiment in three countries." The study undertook to answer the question "Do employers prioritize university prestige above an applicant’s skills in the hiring process?"
Research was carried out by submitting 2,400 fake applications to jobs in the IT and Accounting sectors in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Two different fake candidacies were devised: one with a high level of competency in the required skills for the position applied for, and one with a low level of competency. In each of the three countries, the researchers then selected one prestigious university and one less prestigious university. The applications were then randomly assigned a gender and one of the two universities.
Do skills outweigh university prestige?
The results showed that, regardless of university prestige or sex, applicants with high skills levels were 79% more likely to receive a callback than candidates with low skills levels. The researchers concluded that "human capital, and not university prestige, predicts callback outcomes in skill-intensive sectors of the labor market for entry-level applicants with a bachelor’s degree."
The study gives lie to a persistent fantasy, that where you went to school is more important than what you learned. What counts is the competence of the job-seeker, not the prominence of the institution; the ability of the candidate, not the celebrity of the university they attended.
If it was the case that prestige was what mattered and that a piece of stamped paper from a certain university was a licence to trade on their name, no questions asked, surely no one could possibly claim that such an education was empowering? (But then perhaps this is what students expect when they're paying five figures for their education?) If prestige was what counted, then if an institution fell on hard times, it would follow that their qualifications would go down in value? Not only is the "prestige education" argument a fallacy, it’s also paradoxical and self-defeating.
Education is about Empowerment
Education is not a badge to be flashed nor is it stock. Education is about teaching and learning. Education is about imparting knowledge and acquiring skills. Education is about empowering learners and giving them existing knowledge that they can then convert into something new.
Our platform's offering and reputation are growing as our students continue to transform their Alison education into successful careers and countless opportunities. At Alison, our prestige is not based on anything other than the living testimony of our millions of successful graduates.
In the past, the names of certain universities carried exclusive weight because they signified the physical sites of learning, as knowledge needed to be materially contained in books and libraries. Information had to accumulate somewhere and it did so in universities. However, platforms like Alison have liberated knowledge from the silos of university libraries.
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