What’s the Point of a University Education?


By Joachim Fong, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

“I want an exciting career.”

“I want to pursue my passion.”

“I need to start my own business after I graduate.”

“I want to make an impact on society.”

Well, we all have our reasons for choosing the university route. And the above are probably just some of the many common reasons that students are enrolled in a university.

After all, before we lock ourselves into the workforce for the next 40 years, it would only make practical sense to at least attempt to discover what it is we want to do for the rest of our lives. Be it climbing the corporate ladder, pursuing a passion, or pushing for a philanthropic cause; we all want to discover what our calling is before we embark on the next stage of our lives.

But what actually is the real purpose of a university education?

Should it solely be about career development with a heavy emphasis on practical education? Or should it focus on expanding our young minds and broadening our perspectives on how the world around us functions?

Before I make this into an argumentative essay, I would have to agree that undergoing formal academic rigour does help in preparing us for our future jobs which will, in turn, help put food on the table. That is definitely important—and probably the biggest reason why many of us are in university. But underlying that is another more subtle and yet equally fulfilling purpose behind a university education.


Knowledge that is passed on by our professors. Knowledge that has been gained by spending hours of our own time doing heavy research. Knowledge that empowers us with the capabilities and wisdom to make actual changes to our world and improve society.

I know what most of you are thinking: “Bro, what exactly do you mean by ‘knowledge’? Do you really think I can apply all these theories we’ve learnt in Uni? You seriously think I’ll be using statistical formulas as a public relations executive, or even applying Porter’s 5 forces strategy framework into a programming code?

And you’re probably right.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be applying all these textbook theories you’ve studied, on the job. So begs the question: Are we merely “mugging” for the sake of achieving excellent grades as an entry ticket into the most sought-after careers; and thereafter, chucking all we’ve learnt into a box labelled “never to be used again”? I mean, that seems like kind of a well-known fact.

So how have our four years of “mugging” granted us useful knowledge to make an impact on society?

From my perspective, what truly matters is the journey. It is within our own unique journeys that we learn through experience, and gain knowledge in areas such as:

  • handling the different dynamics of group work—Teamwork;
  • memorising tons of theories and concepts—Coping with information overload;
  • finding real solutions that can’t be found in a textbook—Problem-solving;
  • staying up all night to complete an assignment—Perseverance;
  • learning from different overseas cultures while on exchange—Global Exposure;

and the list goes on…


Joachim in the BONDUE EXCO


Our university journey creates a most unique experience that not only equips us with the necessary hard skills but also elevates our mindfulness of all things that surrounds us. And that, my friends, is the unique balance of how a practical education meets a broader perspective. That is how we become empowered to be someone who can make a difference.

It isn’t just about a piece of paper. Knowledge, in my opinion, is the real reason why we continue to pursue a university education.



To learn more about SMU’s Undergraduate Admissions, visit admissions.smu.edu.sg


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