The Education of Millionaires contains a damning analysis of the US higher education system (and likely soon-to-follow in the UK given recent rises in tuition fees). Basically, it concludes that it is no longer fit for purpose (and actually in something of bubble).
Ellsberg argues that the cost of higher education ($100K+ to get a degree and then a Masters) makes it an increasingly risky proposition in today's economic environment ie a quality formal education no longer entitles you to a job paying enough to even clear your debts (never mind profit from the investment). Further he charges the skills developed within the higher education system are of limited use in the real world (and hence the high numbers of graduates struggling to find even low paid jobs). And this applies even to the business schools.
Lastly, he suggests that reliance on a single burst of higher education in a person's life isn't enough to guarantee job security. In other words, the old adage, beloved of middle class parents everywhere, of get a good (ie university) education in order to secure a good job no longer holds water. The education ain't what it used to be, and the jobs are often not good or secure.
As someone who has both studied (and worked) in higher education I have a lot of sympathy with Ellsberg's point of view. Most courses are designed to teach a limited set of skills which are mostly of use to students wanting a career in academia. In fairness, quite a few tenured academics will freely confess this if asked (and often bemoan the floods of students washing up to their lectures who have neither the ability or interest to follow a career path in academia). Many students, in turn, appear to sense something is wrong (especially once they start looking for work) but cannot put their finger on the problem. Note, this isn't a complete slamming of higher education (on my part at least), for some careers it is still a hugely valuable path to take.
Fortunately, Ellsberg has a solution. He suggests young people model their development on that of successful self-made non-conventionally educated business people even if their ultimate goal is to be a employee. He boils this down to 7 key skills (accompanied by case studies from the self-made rich):
- Work out what a meaningful life is for you
- Find great mentors
- Learn marketing
- Learn sales
- Continuously re-invest in your own self education
- Build your personal brand
- Develop an entrepreneurial mindset (rather than an employee one)
There is some fantastic practical advice here - and I would have happily read a lot more of it although the case studies add a great human dimension. Even if you don't end up agreeing with the book - I think it's an eye opening look at a different way to be successful. Highly recommended.