Studying – experience ‘of’ or ‘for’ a lifetime?

That’s a good question isn’t it?

Last year, when I was considering enrolling in the MSc in Professional AccountanLearncy, I thought about this question a lot. I already graduated twice, I am in full-time employment and I am a fully qualified ACCA accountant. The value of returning to Higher Education wasn’t that obvious.

In Higher Education, are we just reading recommended books and articles and submitting assignments and when it’s all over, time for work? Or are we primarily doing this as preparation for the world of work? As such, do we learn to learn for life?

A year on from starting the course, I think that the latter is the case. Studying is indeed an experience ‘for’ a lifetime.

It teaches you to look for solutions in a methodical way, ensuring that facts and not mere opinions pass for an answer. As such, it will stand in the years to come when you embark on your professional career.

What does it mean to be a student?

Being a student means joining a wider community of learners in trying to uncover new facts about different aspects of the world.

When you are a student, every time you read another article or a chapter you know that there is so much you didn’t know. It leaves you feeling both vulnerable and empowered. Vulnerable, because you realise that what you have learned so far is but a drop in the ocean of available expertise; empowered, because you learned to learn and you got to know something new.

One of the main advantages of studying is that you learn to cope with your own lack of understanding.

Through acquiring skills that help you to navigate from ignorance to understudy or workstanding, you learn confidence. You know that with time and effort you can form your own argument and add to the conversation. You are no longer someone who only is told what is the case. You learn constructive ways of examining that case for yourself.

Also, being a student means that you are ready to challenge others and have your views challenged in a meaningful way, ie. with facts and not mere opinions winning over an argument, through listening and dialogue rather than by force.

Learning how to exchange one’s views properly is so important. What you want to get at the end of each argument are facts and ‘two heads are better than one!’ as the old saying goes.

Not everyone enjoys participating in official debates. But what I refer to is simply the skill of weighting various opinions and juxtaposing different arguments, the attitude of remaining open to dialogue and willing to understand.

Why it matters to be a student for a lifetime?

In practice, keeping ‘student mode’ on means:

– being curious,
– questioning one’s own assumptions,
– always remaining open to new research within one’s area of work,
– ensuring that all options are open to judgement, to critical and informed dialogue.

Are these ‘soft’ skills? Perhaps. However, they are also attitudes that:

– nourish a healthy working environment where decision-making is based on thorough research and dialogue,
– prevent megalomaniac behaviours void of rational analysis,
– encourage ‘thinking outside the box’ and ensure a competitive advantage.

So, especially if you are already in full time employment and completing your course online or part-time, make sure not to keep your student experience to yourself, but share it.

If you managed to provide a detailed analysis of some topic as part of your assignment, why not take a similar approach to issues at work?

If you were keen to discuss something with other students, why not employ the same method of respectful dialogue in your office?

If you changed your opinion as a result of your research, keep a similarly inquisitive and open-minded attitude at work.

Pass it on. Be a student for a lifetime.

Best of luck with your course.

Urszula is studying Professional Accountancy in Poland.

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