The UK Report: Can Unis and Charities Beat Big Business?
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The further we fall into the neoliberal utopia of free markets and control of the means of production, the more we turn universities into little more than profit-creators for big business. This has also lead in part to the student debt crisis we are now facing.
Law firms, banking magnates and the recruitment firms regularly trek to the most prestigious campuses to net the freshest and finest students they can to revitalise their business model.
The Guardian columnist George Monbiot has told of how even idealist students are tempted by the pay packets and lofty rhetoric of major corporate firms. In an article titled How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates Monbiot laments that people who could be working in the third sector are side-tracked by major banking firms.
“I watched it happen to my peers”, writes Monbiot. “People who had spent the preceding years laying out exultant visions of a better world, of the grand creative projects they planned, of adventure and discovery, were suddenly sucked into the mouths of corporations dangling money like angler fish.”
Cynicism Helping Charities
But the cynicism that hit the populace after the financial meltdown of 2008 still hangs in the air, leading many students to avoid the corporate sector and seek out more fulfilling ventures. Those who can’t square the concept of breaking the system from within remove themselves from it altogether.
Student services at Cambridge University have even made efforts to stem the flow of major companies “corrupting” students. Regular events are arranged to counteract the influence of big money and show students other career paths.
Despite this, the allure of cold hard cash will always trump altruism for some. But there is a wide enough pool of individuals to create courses dedicated to charities and other, smaller enterprises.
Distance learning providers in particular contain qualifications from a social enterprise course to the management of social housing. Meanwhile, a study from the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 31% of those in full-time education devote a “significant amount of their spare time” to volunteering.
Volunteering and the pursuit of happiness, instead of the primary pursuit of money, might be the hip new thing to pursue in our world today.
Work That Helps People
There’s a thirst for work that helps people in need. In part this is down to these austerity filled times, where poverty, homelessness and unemployment figures are growing harder to ignore. Television programmes like Benefit Street have uncovered the vicious cycle that the poorest find themselves in.
As a result, more people feel their heartstrings being tugged. The aforementioned courses at universities have made people question how they can make a career from giving something back to society.
Educational institutions will always be under the thrall of big business in some way or another, but the charity sector is striving to regain its foothold – and it looks like their efforts are finally paying off.
Do you have a giving heart? Do you think higher education institutions, like universities, will always be under the influence of big businesses?
Photo courtesy of: HeatherPaque
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