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Should third world universities be considered worker's factories?

  1. Dec 29, 2012 #1
    Right now, in my country (Costa Rica), there are many people who consider universities as a worker factory, where you'll get a title and be able to work. They also consider studying other things besides law, engineering, education, and medicine are useless and suicidal decisions. Besides, in public universities (which are the best ranked), students get several humanities and cultural courses which are considered by some people as useless, disposable courses.

    What do you think? Are really careers like social sciences, natural sciences, or arts that useless for third world countries? I know physical and techonological development is important in these countries, but should universities get out of the critical and cultural knowledgment to become a place to get titles and work?
     
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  3. Dec 29, 2012 #2

    mfb

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    Useless for third world countries or useless for students? That can be different.
    If a student studies something science-related, gets a job somewhere else afterwards and stays there, this can be useful for the student, but it is not useful for the country.
     
  4. Dec 29, 2012 #3
    I was reffering to useless to countries, whatever if they go to another country or stay to work, they consider their work as not important for the development of the country.
     
  5. Jan 2, 2013 #4
    This is a leading question.

    People go to universities for different reasons. Some people go to university for learning purposes only. In their case, it doesn't matter what they choose because there is no such thing as a better subject. Some people go to university for academic positions such as a professor. In their case, they choose strictly academic disciplines such as physics or psychology. Some people go to university to start a career. In their case, they choose degrees more applicable to the real world such as engineering.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  6. Jan 2, 2013 #5
    IMHO Most studies are useful for a country. But there must be bread on the table first. If country is poor but large, it pays off to have a small number of elite researchers doing fundamental science, humanities and arts while the vast majority is just becoming schooled to be workers. This seems to be working fairly well in China for example. India could follow that example. For small countries the usefulness of humanities programs seems very limited to me. And the initial gains are the largest. Doing comparative literature with a limited number of researchers for example is probably a nice thing for the Chinese to keep an overview and understanding of their cultural tradition, but the amount of it that is done in the West has far exceeded any usefulness.
     
  7. Jan 3, 2013 #6

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    Sorry?
    Apart from the fact that many engineering positions are open to physicists as well, you exclude a significant fraction of industrial (and of course all academic) research from the "real world" here.
     
  8. Jan 3, 2013 #7
    Well, assuming that we agree that a physicist can't engineer better than an engineer, a physicist would, at best, be able to maintain equal footing with an engineer for engineering positions. I covered academic research with academic positions, but I did forget about industrial research.

    From what I've gathered from the Career Guidance section, people who go into physics either end up working in computer science (which has very little to do with physics), work in some other field unrelated, work as medical physicists, or work in the positions mentioned above. Physics in its core is an academic science. If you're going to choose physics over engineering, it better not be because of better employment opportunities.
     
  9. Jan 3, 2013 #8

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    My own view is biased here, but be ensured that some physicists are good engineers.
    And the conclusion? An education in physics allows you to use a broad variety of employment opportunities. An engineer works as an engineer, a physicist has more options.
    An education in physics is an education in problem-solving - you can use this for physics problems, but there are many other jobs with problems to solve.
     
  10. Jan 3, 2013 #9

    russ_watters

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    IMO the primary reason to go to university - in any country - should be preparation for a career.
     
  11. Jan 3, 2013 #10
    You want to able to feed yourself and payback your loans once you get out of university. Easiest way to do so is getting a career in law, engineering, education, and medicine. This is also true in first world countries.

    But medicine and law are tough career choices because you cannot get into job market righter after bachelors like you can do in engineering or education.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  12. Jan 3, 2013 #11
    I'm not entirely convinced that physicists make good engineers. If that were the case, then why not just teach the physics curriculum to engineers? Perhaps I have a pessimistic attitude because of all the horror stories I've read in the career guidance section from people who did physics such as ParticleGrl. It might be because there are a lot more physicists than engineers on the forums. The issue is finding reliable career statistics is hard since there always seems to be a flaw in the methodology. For example: payscale reports that people who majored in engineering make more money than people who majored in physics but if you look at their methodology, the information was "collected from employees who successfully completed PayScale's employee survey." In addition, it doesn't account for people who did postgrad and it doesn't look at unemployment percentages.
     
  13. Jan 3, 2013 #12

    russ_watters

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    I agree with tahayassen on this:
    A lot of physicists think this way, but a lot of the engineers from whom they apply for jobs do not. Engineers do not want to hire people who see engineering as a last resort/fallback possibility.
     
  14. Jan 3, 2013 #13
    I think a good person will get hired whether he has physics or history background. I seen some very odd cases like people from mining engineering working in bank IT department. But, it will always be hard for average person to get into other profession.

    In my case, even many people inside Electrical Engineering (including myself) found it hard to switch from one area of EE (e.g. software/programming) to another EE (e.g. power/hardware etc).

    Here's some random job I pulled that asks for these things:
    How someone from non-EE background will get this? You can get entry level job but even those jobs will need you to be skillful in softwares like ETAP, PSIM, ... etc
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  15. Jan 3, 2013 #14
    Obviously a student getting a degree in Art History, or anything else of the sort, won't be able to reimburse their country with meaningful monetary value in the form of employment. Conversely, something more applicable and more readily employable will help drive the economy more so than a purely intellectual pursuit made by a student who has no intention whatsoever of making a career out of their studies, but merely chooses learn for the sake of learning.

    However, public universities ought to be unbiased, no matter the condition of their country. Students reserve the right to learn what they please, and whether they choose to make the decision to become a legitimate part of the workforce of their struggling country, or not, is their own decision to make.

    As you have stated from your own personal experience, majoring in something not directly employable is looked down upon; this makes it seem as if any issues will resolve themselves seeing as how most of the citizens appear to have their country's best interests in mind when going to college.

    Anyway, Costa Rica appears to be drastically improving (from what the internet can tell me... you may experience something entirely different). Students majoring in social sciences shouldn't be considered a hindrance to the prosperity of their nation.
     
  16. Jan 3, 2013 #15
    I reread my original post and perhaps I may have oversimplified it a little too much.
    I probably shouldn't have put physics and psychology in the same category like that because physics has a lot more going for it in terms of employability than psychology does. I guess it's better represented by a spectrum. For example: on one end, you have highly unempoyable degrees such as psychology and on the other end, you have employable degrees such as pharmacology. Having said that, I still maintain my assertion that engineering falls further on the employability end than physics does.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  17. Jan 3, 2013 #16
    There's plenty of useless crap in US universities too... General Education is a joke, why should I have to learn literature or other social sciences? Complete waste of time and money.
     
  18. Jan 4, 2013 #17

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    Not every engineering task is announced as engineering job. Particle detectors are built by particle physicists, for example.

    ~2% unemployment rate for physicists in Germany - it is hard to reduce this to a single number (as most statistics ask for the type of job, not the type of education), but the unemployment rate is very low.
     
  19. Jan 4, 2013 #18

    russ_watters

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    That doesn't have anything to do with your previous statement, which was about physicists applying for jobs that are titled for engineers.
     
  20. Jan 4, 2013 #19

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    Well, I said "engineering position". I don't have numbers here. Industrial research can include engineering as well. As an example: For an internship, I was in a group of ~10 physicists and 2 engineers, working on a flow rate meter.
    I think this is a bit off-topic here.
     
  21. Jan 4, 2013 #20

    f95toli

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    In some places this is (almost) done in some places. My undergraduate degree is a Masters in Engineering Physics and we were free to pick EE courses for our 4th year specialization, the EP program at my unversity (in Sweden) was set up in such a way that we had the neccesary background for nearly all the EE courses. There were also a few EE students who attended "our" courses e.g. quantum electronics, photonics etc (where you did not need as much math).

    Many of my fellow EP students ended up as microwave engineers. Hence, it follows that I've found it reasonably easy to read up on what is usually considered to be EE subjects whenever I needed to (which is a good thing since I am an experimentalist and spend a lot of time doing microwave measurements etc) and I can promise you that I -after 13 years of work in the lab- know more about say microwave engineering than a recently graduated EE student. It is also true that I work with quite a few electrical engineers who know more about solid state/device physics than a someone with a undergraduate degree in physics.

    The fact that there is such a diffence between engineers and physicists at the undergraduate level seems to be am American/British thing (the fact that physics students here in the UK know so little about even basic EE is a major problem in my view) and is probably due to the fact that the programs are a bit too short and too specialized.

    A good physicists should -in my view- know a fair amount of engineering (at least if he/she is an experimentalist) and vice versa, and the difference between physics and engineering is practially non-existent in many fields.
     
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