How to Define Higher Education

In today’s article we are going to try and define higher education, and see what it really is and what it represents around the world. In most cultures, it is also called third level education, or post-secondary, and it is the level of education some choose to follow after elementary and high school. This occurs in institutions such as universities, faculties, colleges, academies or institutes of technology. There is another aspect to higher education, so it also includes institutions like vocational colleges, career or trade colleges and so on; although the careers that can come from these are not as intellectual, they still offer a degree and equip people with valuable skills that allow them to get jobs and even accomplish greater things.

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If we try to give a definition of higher education we have to consider the fact that it is viewed differently from country to country; for example, the subject is still controversial in many parts of the world, usually from a human rights’ point of view. Generally, it is said that everyone should have the right and the access to higher education, but in reality, the very poor can rarely afford it. In countries where the government allows a limited number of free applicants, those without means still have to get money for books and study materials, and even for subsistence if they have to study somewhere away from home. For exceptional students who prove potential, scholarships are found or offered from time to time that allow them to further their studies and thus fulfill that potential.

The reality is that with all our intentions, higher education is not actually for everyone. In the United States, those who want to go to a good university or college have to save a lot of money (or have their parents save for them), take out huge loans, or be one of the lucky few with a scholarship. A very good school in America can cost between $20,000 and $60,000 per year, which usually leaves students with great debt at the end of school. A lot of kids try to get better at sports if their grades aren’t high enough, because universities love to pride in their winning basketball or football teams. For these young athletes, getting a scholarship at Yale or Harvard is like winning the lottery, and some even get drafted to professional leagues later on. But this isn’t a definition of higher education, it is merely an aspect of it, one that starts to show how the system is flawed.

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This isn’t to say that there aren’t well-intended people working in the system, people who work hard to make things better for everyone and offer as many individuals as possible the possibility of getting a higher education. On the other hand, there are people who argue that higher education should not in fact be for everyone, that there is a need for practical jobs as well, such as sweeping the streets or fixing cars. The inequality appears when the high salaries go to those with a degree, whereas other jobs are considered less important. How things will develop and how we will define higher education then only time will tell, but perhaps the subject won’t be as controversial anymore.