Life Style

Extension of studies: do we always need more diplomas?

Stop or again? Is it better to be satisfied with one’s diploma or to aim for another and then another? Should we continue with another course, complementary or different, higher, more prestigious, more practical? Many families, many young people ask themselves these questions.

With sometimes the idea that studies are in themselves an enrichment, a precious parenthesis before entering real life. Most often with professional integration prospects as a compass.

“When you have a higher education diploma, all levels combined, the employment rate is 87%, compared to barely 53% for those who don’t”recalls Éric Charbonnier, education expert at the OECD.

An almost automatic link between level of diploma and remuneration

The diploma thus opens doors. And continues to offer better compensation. “After three years on the labor market, a non-graduate earns, in median salary, €1,220 net, a secondary school graduate €1,380, a young person who stopped before the bac + 5, €1,620, while a holder of a master’s degree, or even more, receives €2,260”, explains Fanette Merlin, researcher at the Center for Studies and Research on Qualifications (Céreq), based on the long-term monitoring of a cohort entering the labor market in 2017.

The diploma is also protective over time. “For example, the gap widened between graduates and non-graduates during the 2008 financial crisis,” notes this researcher.

However, this picture deserves to be nuanced. Take into account the field of study, the type of diploma (a professional license offers much better job prospects than a general license), the way in which it is prepared (with a clear advantage for work-study) . Another downside: despite a bac + 8 level, the doctorate, excluding health, offers a slower integration than a master, at bac +5.

Longer studies to reach the social level of his parents

Not always easy, therefore, for a young person and his parents to anticipate the “yield” of a diploma. “Over time, it has increased in the most selective formations”observes sociologist François Dubet. “But he has rather retreated in the other courses. Today, it often takes two or three more years of study to reach the same social level as one’s parents. Enough to create disenchantment »he believes.

“You could also say that the diploma is not everything, that the network is just as important”continues this researcher. “Except that these same elitist training courses, often private, are those that teach how to create and maintain a network…”

Some, like the sociologist Marie Duru-Bellat, do not hesitate to speak of“school inflation”the value of the diploma on the labor market eroding under the effect of the general rise in qualifications. “With a bac + 2 or a bac + 3, there is much less chance of becoming a senior executive than twenty years ago. » But, she argues, “even in a rich society like ours, public money invested in an extra year of study (€18,100 on average per year and per student, editor’s note) is so much money that is not used, for example, to combat reading difficulties from the earliest grades.

Too often, deplores Marie Duru-Bellat, diplomas serve more “to be selected, based on academic criteria” only to truly prepare for professional life. They also offer an annuity, determine a large part of the career to come.

A traffic jam at the entrance to the masters

From one year to another, in any case, the rise in qualifications continues. France is thus one of the 14 OECD Member States (out of 38) to have crossed the threshold of 50% of higher education graduates among 25-34 year olds. It is also one of the 11 EU countries to have already achieved the European target of 45% graduates by 2030.

“But rather than focusing on raising the level of diplomas, it would be better to aim for an increase in the level of skills, by redefining the content of many training courses”, comments Éric Charbonnier. For the OECD expert, in fact, “the world of work needs young people who show curiosity and creativity, who are able to work in a team, who trust others”.

Diplomas perhaps lower but better adapted to the realities on the ground? The idea seems in tune with the times, while a “Parcoursup” of masters is being developed to better manage traffic jams at the end of the license. While in addition many jobs that do not require a bac + 5 do not find takers.

Addressing the difficulties of recruiting teachers, at the end of August, in the Sorbonne, in front of the rectors, Emmanuel Macron evoked, brutally, “university degrees (…) excessive for some”. And more broadly, in the entourage of Sylvie Retailleau, the Minister of Higher Education, we wonder without false modesty “if we haven’t gone a little too far in the race for diplomas”. Moreover, more and more young people are attracted by shorter courses, such as BTS, BUT (ex-DUT) or bachelors, diplomas generally prepared in three years and often offered by large schools.

Also develop short professional training courses

“In most developed countries, there is a third of general training, two thirds of vocational training. In France, the proportion is reversed., deplores Louis Vogel, former president of the Panthéon-Assas University. He who is now mayor of Melun (Seine-et-Marne) and head of the Ideas division within Edouard Philippe’s party, Horizons, considers that the State should, via a contract of objectives and means, encourage universities to multiply short, professional courses. And to cite as an example the university degree (DU) of private investigator offered in one year by his former university, “with real opportunities”.

However, Louis Vogel lays down several conditions: “The DUs should become state diplomas, with a single price throughout France, and not fees which today vary from a few hundred to a few thousand euros. It would also be necessary to build bridges towards other training and above all to offer everyone the possibility of resuming studies and training throughout life. »

Extending studies, a social justice issue

It remains that the effects of a high level of qualification are not measured exclusively by the yardstick of professional integration. “The benefits are multiple”assures Fanette Merlin. “At the individual level, there is a financial gain but also a symbolic one, with a position in the social hierarchy likely to bring valuable non-market benefits. Collectively, the better individuals are paid, the more taxes the state collects. Finally, the higher the level of education, the better the health, the lower the crime, the greater the civic participation. »

Vice-president of the Unef, Pauline Lebaron also sees with a positive eye “the fact that a maximum of young people obtain a certain level of diplomas”. But what is “source of emancipation” is also too often experienced as a pressure. “Today we are called upon to differentiate ourselves with ever more diplomas, with ever more specific diplomas. This raises essential questions of social justice. » It is not given to all to finance studies that stretch in length. Also, his student union is demanding an autonomy allowance of just over €1,000 per month for all young people in training.

The risk, in any case, warns François Dubet, is “that the non-qualified, the poorly qualified do not feel excluded and despised”. And “that resentment towards the elites, the intellectuals, does not lead them even more to the extreme votes already observed in France, England, Italy”.


Qualifications that facilitate entry into the job market

Published this fall, the Génération 2017 survey enabled Cereq to study for three years the trajectory of a representative panel of young people who left the education system that year.

Sustainable access to permanent employment, immediately after studies or on a deferred basisis favored by obtaining the following diplomas: engineering school (80% of graduates experience such integration), business school (75%), professional industrial license (74%), master’s degree in economics-management-AES (74 %), scientific master (70%), doctorate in health (65%).

Among the 21.5% of young people who experience late access to employment, an exit from employment towards unemployment or inactivity, a maintenance on the margins of employment, we find essentially young people without higher education diplomas or holders of a license in letters, languages ​​or human sciences.


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