5 Critical Reasons That Will Make You Go To University…

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University of Zimbabwe, UZ, education, school, Presidential and National Scholarships

You probably read William Chui’s article on whether you should get a degree or diploma. If you didn’t, this is what he said in a nutshell, “Don’t. It’s not worth it. Instead, enroll in an online class on Udemy or something.” I don’t agree.

Study hard. Get good grades. If you failed, repeat. And get a degree or diploma from a local university or abroad. It’s worth it.

But William Chui’s article doesn’t go without merit. You all agree that the quality of lecturers we have is largely questionable. Most are under qualified and some have no idea that we’re in the 21st Century.

The universities in Zimbabwe make it even harder for me to disagree with William Chui. None of our universities are in the top 4,000 in the world. And the reason is obvious, we don’t do research and forget lecturing is teaching, research and community engagement.

I believe this is not because of poor funding but lack of innovation from both university management and academic staff. Did you know publishers give lecturers brand new books free of charge? And there are millions of dollars available for researchers especially those in developing countries?

Why then do I think going to university even in Zimbabwe is a good investment for your future?

This is why.

5 reasons you should get a university degree

1. Days of accidental millionaires are behind us

The 21st Century fosters intellectual entrepreneurship. In the US, 92% of tech startup founders have a bachelor’s degree, 31% a master’s and 10% a PhD. We are living in a time where students start companies from their school projects. Isn’t that what Larry Page and Sergei Brin did in 1996 at Stanford University?

A student investigating impact of climate change on small scale farmers can develop a mobile app addressing that problem. If you’re doing library science or publishing degree, nothing can stop you from rethinking how Zimbabweans engage with books.

You think that’s impossible.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited ETH Zürich in Switzerland. I met a professor who had five students who turned their PhD dissertation into multimillion dollar manufacturing companies. Nothing can stop that from happening in Zimbabwe except your attitude as a student.

2. Folks with university degrees earn higher

Ten years ago, when I was on attachment, I earned probably twice more than the folks who were teaching me the job. The reason was simple, I was working on a first degree and they didn’t have an O Level certificate. It’s not fair, but that’s the reality of the world we’re living in.

If you’re still not convinced consider a 2014 study by Pew Research. Pew Research surveyed the annual income of people with a 4- and 2-year university degree or a high school diploma. This is what they found:

On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment-from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time-young university graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.

3. Those useless classes teach things useful tomorrow

I teach boring classes at a local university, process engineering classes to chemistry students. Process engineering doesn’t only help my students do the tedious and boring energy and material balances. It actually helps them in critical thinking. Importantly, it helps them to use systems and models in problem solving, skills every serious entrepreneur need.

You think I am lying, consider what Slack’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield said (Slack is the hottest startup at the moment, probably second to Uber, and it’s now valued more than US$4 billion, and Mr. Butterfield is now worth around US$500 million).

Studying philosophy taught me two things. I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.

4. University offers a rare chance for networking

I met the smartest people when I went to university. And the best thing is this, they’re now all my friends. I have a network of people with expertise in journalism, electrical engineering, chemistry, chemical engineering and I am a environmental scientist. I leave it upto you what type of startup I can pursue.

In one of the classes I took in university, we were required to start an income generating company. My team comprised of chemistry students only. But we developed a cosmetic product that used a locally available plant as the main ingredient. I hope one day we will go back to the idea and make money out of it.

Consider this advice from Kathrina Manalac, of Y Combinator, a US-based startup incubator providing seed funding to young entrepreneurs:

One of the most difficult things about a startup is finding good people to work with, never again will you be surrounded by so many talented people as you are in university.

5. It’s not an either online or university choice

While I was studying for my PhD, I took classes from Coursera, EdX, Stanford Online, FutureLearn, Udacity, MasterClass ( a class on writing fiction taught by James Patterson), HubSpopt (an inbound marketing certification course), and Zondervan Academic (a class on Bible interpretation).

You don’t have to choose between university and taking online classes. You can do both. And as a university student you will get free internet on campus and discounted internet access off-campus. The good thing about these online classes is they offer verified certificate, at a fee of course.

Doing both will give you a competitive edge over your peers. Because in addition to having the basic accreditation, you will have the most upto date knowledge of your area of interest. Again online classes will complement the probably narrow scope of your degree. A person studying ICT can take an online class in philosophy or programming.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. These include the National University of Science and Technology and Institute of International Education, as well as the Institute of Environmental Science.

Author Bio

Edmond Sanganyado is a Fulbright scholar with a PhD in Environmental Toxicology. He teaches at National University of Science and Technology and writes at Pew Theology.


  1. Garikai Dzoma

    An impressive write up. My sentiments exactily get your academic qualification then learn your vocation. The academic foundation gives you a solid base.

    1. Edmond Sanganyado

      Thanks, Garikai. You’re right, going to college gives a strong foundation for building a great career.

    2. William Chui

      But does this “academic qualification” need to be obtained inside a university?

  2. Ed

    The other article looks like it was written by someone who’s been watching too many a movie. It sounded kinda like the old days when we’d say “Forget education, music pays much more.”

    1. William Chui

      Thanks for the comment. I am not against ‘education’, I believe that education is the key to opening many doors.

      However, I’m against gaining that education in a four walled institution, which I think is a waste of time and money. The are cheaper, faster and better ways to do it, online, where the ability to “pivot” is a bit less painful.

      1. Cynical Zimbabwean

        there is no shortcut to going to the university or riches my brother, from your talk i wouldn’t be surprised to know kuti uri mwana wapapa

        1. Emotions Aside

          Maybe Chu should have pointed out that, if you are going to chose to be an Entreprenuer it makes sense. Because not going to university and chosing to be an employee wouldn’t make sense. Bury your stats Mr prof by the way, the youngest and sensational billionaire right now as we speak who started Snapchat DROPPED out

          1. Edmond Sanganyado

            He dropped out from where and when? Evan Spiegel dropped out of Stanford just before completing his studies. And his case further solidifies my argument: Snapchat was Evan Spiegel and his co-founder’s class project at Stanford. Not only that, he’s not your typical drop out because he actually completed his studies at several design schools in SoCal.

  3. William Chui

    1. I don’t agree that one can only develop a project based on it being their research at a degree program. Why go through 4 years of torture and hard labour to discover that you can research a certain topic?
    2. Those that are earning less due to not having “degrees” are doing so not because of their lack of a degree. One has to seek out their passion and master a skill that will allow them to be paid. I disagree that the knowledge that will allow you to earn more can be found in the comfort of 4 walls at a university.
    3. My argument here is why one should not go to a local university and not why one should not be educated. The courses that are available online teach those same “boring classes”, hence this argument falls short.
    4. Based on the quality of graduates that I’ve interacted with locally, I doubt spending time there will benefit an individual. I’m gonna slave away for 4 years to be in the midst of people who are chasing a “paper” just so that they can brag about it and don’t give a hoot about the content? Or that they are there because they’re living their parents dream? I’m yet to experience the benefit of networking at a local university over the great minds that are out on the internet. Reddit anyone?
    5. It becomes an “either or” choice once one is limited with resources. Most of us don’t have the resources, hence we can’t go with both options.

    The writer sought to put forward the case of why going to university should be considered. I put forward the case of why a local university is a waste of time versus studying online. I think the writer did not seek out to discuss the issues raised on the poor quality of universities, lecturers and students (heck, he even agreed with me) and though there are valid points raised, I still hold that a local university is a waste of time and money.

    1. Wenera

      How many zimbo graduates (from the same poor quality, non top 4000 universities)are doing well world wide? Come to SA, its zimbos all over! Nust, msu, cut, poly, uz all over! (Still to meet someone from tsholotsho)

      Muchasvora nembodza dzino zvimbira.

      Kune vakasara mu zim, vauri kuona, for some its by choice for some vanoziva kuti vangori ne certificate but gwazh hapana.

      1. TheKing

        I agree with both you and William. Yes, we have outstanding people who came out of these institutions.

        On (4) where he talks on the quality of graduates, sadly, I agree with him. I think part of the problem is graduates lie and are overconfident. You will get a CV with multiple certifications where the person says they know multiple technologies/languages. You call them for an interview and they don’t know the basics. The problem is you can cheat your way to a degree and an I.T certification(exam dumps). In S.A, most Zimbos end up pulling their socks because the market is tough, you can get fired for incompetence real fast and when hiring most managers are concerned with your skills rather than your degree.

        On (1), William, I again agree and disagree with you. From experience, I have seen graduates develop an incubator and an automated irrigation system. This however was due to great guidance from a brilliant lecturer. There are few of these in the country.

        1. Ishmael Chibvuri

          Spot on Buddy..

      2. William Chui

        Wenera, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately my Shona fails me and I am unable to respond to you

    2. rjcdube

      I totally agree with the writer on the fact that the four walls become necessary because the employment market is rigged against non-conventional skills gathering. For the most part employers value that piece of paper over actual experience and capabilty.
      I have come across a lot of people that are so keen on you and are impressed by your ability who will ask… Where did you study? I tell them i am not degreed but I read widely and suddenly the twinkle in the eyes fades the smile slips or gently shifts to one of righteous pity. All that you can do is chalked up to just a fluke and the natural order is in harmony again… You don’t have the paper so what you can do is irrelevant.

      I am not yet in a position to do my own thing, so to keep the opportunities coming I have had to gag the inner rebel go get the paper so I can fudge the truth at interviews and say I became who I am because of it.

    3. Anonymous

      Do not send your kids to university and get back to us 20 years from now. Tell them again not to send their kids to university Mr. Chui and we will see what happens to the Chui name in a couple of decades.

      I wonder if such thoughts bode well with you. Having three generations that have never set foot in a University setup.

  4. Success story in the making

    I am a Zimbabwean who despite getting good grades told my parents I would not go to study Computer Science at neither a local nor international college. They were devastated and tried convincing me and blah blah blah… but I had made my choice.

    I am a self taught computer scientists, I have interned for companies in USA, Italy and Germany… all without a college degree. How? I proved my worth, I wrote code, contributed to existing projects, constantly improved my skills and I am happy I did.

    Whilst I agree with the author’s views on education for the general higher education populace, I am more inclined to the views expressed in William’s article.

    Self led, not going to college, learn online, build things yourself, don’t follow the herd way of starting a career is not for everyone. It is best for a small subset of people who prefer teaching themselves than sitting through hours of lectures. If you are one of those people, coupled with the discomfort of not having the security of a college degree will push you to excel more than your peers. Nothing grows in the comfort zone except expectations of more comfort.

    I could go on and on trying to justify my actions, but its a course of action only a few outliers would understand and relate to.

    Do I have any regrets? No. I have a house – fully paid for in cash, a nice car, a standing job offer – which I won’t take, two businesses that give passive income and a CV with more industry experience than all my friends who went to college.

    How old am I? I am 22years old.

    1. x

      kudos to you.. it worked out for you

  5. G

    one critical dimension people are missing is that people have different learning styles. online resources like udemy & codeacademy are good for people who are self motivated to learn via self study

    the issue is that people should just realise that university is not the only option, you can learn using the millions of free resources out there

  6. Macd Chip

    I will speak from my personal experience here!

    I do not have a degree, my best education is GCSE. Some few years ago l have a situation, should l go to Uni or pursue job markets, l chose money over further education. And l have to say l earn more than people with degrees. l also have people with degrees under me as well doing what they do best.

    But a year l ago l decided to further my education! The motive is nothing to do with good salary or earning more, but few of the following:

    1. Personal gratification
    I just dont like it when people are rubbing their education on my face, so l took it upon myself to study for a degree a year ago and its going very well so far.

    2. Gvt employment
    If you want to be employed in any government company, forget it in Zim or Africa if you do not have a degree. I have interacted with a lot of engineers here in Zim who have degrees in IT related fields, some of them are employed higher up in government, but they have no clue at all on how their jobs must move companies forward.

    One day l want to turn around one of our telco, but without a degree, it a non starter!

  7. Tindo

    Getting university advice from a person who failed to go to a university is a recipe for disaster. If you want to got real advice about varsity, go to someone who has been there.

    Some people have become expects on university education though they have never set foot on a university campus. You have to be a fool to take their advice. Just be careful.

  8. VaMhlanga

    I will never take swimming lessons from a drowning man. Deep inside, these guys who never went to varsity probably envy those who did!

    1. Macd Chip

      Financially l do not!!

  9. E.C

    For the most part, a degree in these parts of the world acts as a door opener. I agree with the writer that degree holders generally earn higher, particularly in Zimbabwe. But look at where we are as a nation, with degree holders holding offices in critical sectors of development. William Chui’s argument is valid, and so is Rjcdube. Degree holders appear to be doing well because our system is rigged to absord those with that paper and give them preferential treatment.
    But does that make the university route better? Well, yes and no.
    Yes as an individual opportunities are practucally offered to you first before anyone else because you have the paper. So on an individual and personal level, going to uni is the best thing you can do.
    But for ab organisational view point, skill and ability should come first before a piece of paper that we now know can be attained through other means not necessarily academic merit. In Zimbabwe, degreed people have let us down, not because they have degrees but because their level of skill is not commensurate with what their certificate claims they know. Its only that our system favours them, and you are not even invited to prove yourself if you dont have that paper. Some systems work differently, particularly western ones ( Proof? Check job postings from U.S Embassy, their agencies / foundations / programmes, British Council, UN agencies and similar organisations. You will find that emphasis is placed on skill, ability and experience more than the degree title, if they mention a degree at all. Now compare that to job adverts by indigenous companies, even “blue chip” ones. A degree is among the top qualifications they ask fir, if not the first and most important.) At times it gets me wondering if this is the reason we keeping trailing. Our system venerates a degree so much it overlooks potential, as if not enough the quality of universities offering that degree is not that.

    Law, Medicine, Piloting (is there such a profession) yah, maybe you could demand to see certificates first. But in tech? C’mon, even n’anga dzinongorapa wani pasina mapepa.

    FACT: Systems that place so much emphasis on degrees, produce the crappiest ones. Those that don’t, have the most coveted ones.

    1. Edmond Sanganyado

      Thanks for the comment. The study from Pew Theology focused on the US. I have worked in the US. They give emphasis on the degree, except for menial work.

  10. #BringBackTheRealTechzim

    Phew! What a breathe of fresh air. I was almost disturbed by the earlier trend of articles from our good friend Chui! I almost stopped visiting the site lest I leave one of Chui’s articles open on my laptop and my son reads it!!!!!