Why Should Careers Advisers Care About Sussex Uni’s Student Protests?

Why careers advisers should care about what’s happening at Sussex Uni? The careers world in general tends to keep itself to itself. After all impartiality is a important part of a careers advisers professional identity. That said I feel that there are a few questions that unrest on campus should raise for careers advisers. I thought I’d jot them down briefly.

Because If Students Care So Should We

As an adviser I feel I need to care about the futures of all students. Its easy to look at students who occupy buildings as part of a lunatic fringe on campus. Its easy as an adviser to care more about nicely behaved students who want to grow up to be teachers or bankers. But we should be there for all students, not just the ones we want to work with. I feel that the likely hood of a student who is prepared to go on a march, stage a sit in or occupy a building just wanting a run of a mill graduate role with a city firm are fairly low. As an adviser I want to understand what makes students tick and to help them discover a future which is fulfilling for them.

Because You Can’t Be In The HE Community Without Asking What It Is There For

At the core of what is happening at Sussex and at the student fee protests was more than just whether HE is affordable for all (though that is a massive issue) but also what things the HE community values. Collaboration between like minded people, the value of knowledge in and of itself and the foundation of a life of learning stands at odds with the emerging ethic of competition, knowledge only being worthwhile if it serves industry and HE being there to found careers of economic activity. Many who are part of the HE community feel unsure about this new approach. I would say part of what is happening at Sussex is those parts of the HE system who feels that the values of university and market capitalism don’t mix are making a stand. Careers workers need to ask what they think on this issue. Is HE opposed to capitalism in all its forms? Is HE the instrument of a market economy? Or something else entirely? Either way we can no longer ignore this as an issue. Being part of the HE community means engaging with this issue.

Because Careers Work Can Be Radical

I know many may feel uneasy about this. I’m not saying that careers workers should go around encouraging students to become revolutionaries and take to the barricades. All of us are part of varying and overlapping systems. Careers work can be seen as equipping people to approach and interact with new systems (e.g. work, wider society etc.) What we see in Sussex is two systems colliding and the conflict that ensues. This can be conceptualized similarly to what happens when a student leaves uni, two systems coming into contact with each other. The problem can be that careers work just equips students to conform to new systems, not to challenge them. History is full of positive examples of systems coming into conflict with each other (e.g. the civil rights movement). We should be asking if we assume that students just need to comply with the existing systems in society. The students at Sussex Uni have challenged me to ask if my job partly involves educating students about the possibility of approaching systems in various ways and the potential interactions that could follow out of these. Education should create possibilities for those who received it, some of these possibilities may well be radical.

Because We May Be Next

I feel it wont be long before a University outsources its careers provision to a private contractor. Universities are becoming increasingly cost conscious and are looking at new ways of saving money. Alongside this in the wake of Connexions being broken up lots of private contractors have come in to bid for school contractors most of them offering less provision at lower cost to what Connexions used to do. Soon these companies may look to branch out into HE bringing the same ethic of less for less. What the protests at Sussex claim is that prioritisation makes things worse. The question this has left me with is can I justify the quality I produce and could I defend my value for money against a cheaper alternative?

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