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Are people without a university degree dehumanized by society?

‘A degree is seen as a first impression’

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Having a degree has become essential for many people to survive. Degrees are seen not only as a tool that paves the way to a secure life and future, but also a necessity for one’s status and worth in society. This leaves people with no university degrees in a critical situation, struggling to succeed in today’s workforce as well as fit in society. Kuwait Times interviewed three people without a university degree, who shared their experiences.

Bu Ali, a middle-aged stateless man in Kuwait, said not having a college degree keeps one stuck in a vicious circle of basic jobs and positions, especially since people nowadays only care about the facade. Where does a person work and what is their job title has become part of one’s reputation and value. “A degree is seen as a first impression, as people judge you according to such things. So, if you are a teacher or a doctor, this means that you are more intelligent,” Bu Ali said.

According to Bu Ali, the higher your status is, the worthier you become of marriage and friendship or any other kind of connection: “People judge, befriend and respect you according to how much they can benefit from their relationship with you,” he noted. Sami, a middle-aged Lebanese expat, said not having a college degree not only affected his practical life in terms of job opportunities and salary, but also his social life.

“I am almost 40 years old but unable to get engaged to a suitable woman. I personally had to leave a woman who I barely got to know because as soon as she learnt I do not have a college degree, she said that there cannot be any chance of getting engaged, not only from her side, but also from her family’s side, because marrying someone without a college degree in unacceptable to her father,” he said.

Holding a degree has become part of the necessities that make society consider one’s humanity. “Without a college degree, people view you in a dehumanized manner. If not with disrespect, then it is through sympathy, knowing your chances of success and stability are lower than everyone else. Nowadays, the majority of people hold a degree, unlike the past, where having only a high school degree would be considered acceptable. This makes you feel like an outcast,” Sami said.

Furthermore, Sami told Kuwait Times about his experience with not having a degree at work.  He said after spending many years of his life working, he has started seeing people who are new to the company are getting raises and are paid better than he is, despite his experience in the company, because some higher positions necessitate possessing university degrees, otherwise the owners would be questioned and get in trouble with the government for placing someone in a certain position without a degree that proves their credibility. This pushed Sami to quit his job and start working as a freelancer. “I currently work as a videographer and am aiming to expand my work and start my own company,” he added.

Another example is Olivia, a middle-aged Lebanese woman, who has worked for more than 10 years in the same position. She said that her chances of growth are very limited and her pay is too little, despite holding a diploma in business. “I continued my studies after graduating from high school, only to realize that it is not only a matter of earning a college degree. The university that you attend and the major that you study also make a great difference. Because I studied business at a weak college, it did not benefit me much,” she pointed out.

Job opportunities are not very diverse and not every company accepted Olivia’s diploma. “During the pandemic, the company I worked for fired me along with other colleagues who like me either had no degree or weak qualifications. Therefore, this puts us at a higher risk of dehumanization and insecurity,” she added.

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