Who needs a degree now?

Want to get an interview with one of the world’s top IT companies? Facebook or Microsoft.

Perhaps you think they only look at folk with top degrees from top universities. Wrong. In fact, you can get an interview without having a degree – you just have to be good (really good) at coding, and be able to demonstrate that.

Say hello to Interview Street:

CodeSprints are coding contests designed to streamline the job hunt for programmers. Instead of blindly applying to companies individually, work on a single set of interesting coding problems to get interview calls from great companies.

I teach on a game programming course – yet one of the key messages that I try to get students to understand is somewhat contrary. That most game companies don’t care about your degree. Unusual amongst the skilled professions, there is a much greater focus on portfolio and being able to demonstrate what you can do rather than reliance on a piece of paper from a university. Being competent and capable – and aiming to be exceptional – at programming and software development is the goal, not the pass mark.

Interview Street now allows major employers to look beyond the certificate, and evaluate what candidates can actually do. So whether you learn software development from a book, attending college, through free online courses, or any combination you can think of, you can compete on a purely meritocratic basis with anyone anywhere from any college.

Will there (can there?) be an equivalent for business skills or other areas of expertise?

With free online courses and materials for learning, and ways of demonstrating skills to employers bypassing the need for certificates of achievement, what is the purpose of universities?

As Coursera’s Daphne Koller puts it (quoted on HackEducation):

“There’s a growing amount of content out there on the Web,” says Koller, “and so the value proposition for the university is no longer simply getting their content out there. Rather, it’s fostering that personal interaction between faculty and students and students and students.”

The only real value proposition for universities is perhaps now in the relations between staff and students. How staff can support students, help them engage with the topics, overcome hurdles that come their way, and to help them find their way after university.

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