Some people think that universities should provide graduates with knowledge and skills needed in the workplace. Others think that the true function of a university should be to give access to knowledge for its own sake, regardless of whether the course is useful to an employer. What, in your opinion, should be the main function of a university? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
A university has to have a library, but it is not just a group of buildings gathered around a library.
The main functions of higher education are predominantly two-fold. One is to provide graduates with work skills for employment, and the other is to give access to knowledge for its own sake, being independent of whether or not the course is useful to an employer.
On the one hand, universities have the function to equip graduates with work skills so that they can obtain viable employment. In times of high unemployment, employers have more choice of applicants and will favor those university graduates with well-rounded job skills needed in the workplace. Graduates, as candidates, may have qualifications and ‘hard skills ‘ as well as ‘soft skills’ or social skills to be able to manage the job role. Therefore, it is the obligation of higher education to teach workplace skills as part of degree courses. Hard skills that are useful to an employer can be learned from university courses, and soft skills can help students stand out and these are transferable skills from job to job throughout their career life. While the importance of hard skills is too obvious to mention, soft skills that are also useful to an employer include teamwork, presentation, time management and problem solving, etc.
On the other hand, for students in universities, learning is an activity fired by the desire to know, and that for it to flourish a deep love of learning must be cultivated for its own sake. The greater is the intensity of that desire, the deeper they are likely to pursue their leaning with fun and pleasure. Whether students know what they want for a first career, and are exploring a few majors, or change majors over and over again, a university education is about more than preparing students for that first job after graduation. Beyond that function, it is about preparing students for every job they will have. Also, it is about preparing them to learn and adapt over time, and to be people who make their societies better places. To put it in another way, the point of higher education is to teach students to think and to reason and to compare and to discriminate and to analyze, and goes on to handle any career (or in today’s time, many careers), all of which are useful to an employer.
In conclusion, universities today generally reflect a balance—whether explicit or implicit—between these two main functions. Each of these two functions has a strong contemporary resonance. Both together to make graduates useful employees and educated citizens.