I spent part of my morning with a film crew, recording segments of a conversation that will later be edited together into glossy advertising for my program (link to last year’s version), the MSc in Public Management and Governance. A few hours later, sitting in the heart of LSE’s New Academic Building, I thought I’d take a moment to elaborate a little bit more on a point I made in one of those segments.
What I said, loosely paraphrased, is that prospective students often use immediate employability as a proxy for return on education, when in fact the concept should be understood more broadly. Of course, it’s important to get a job right away. Rent (especially in London) won’t pay for itself. But if all you’re looking for out of your degree is that first job, you’re looking at this wrong.
Setting aside technical fields, which I acknowledge have different imperatives, I’d argue that the return on most degrees at the LSE comes in two forms: (a) accreditation, through the conferral of the LSE brand to your person, and (b) transformation, through the modification of your habits of thinking and approach to existence. Return (a) pays immediate dividends: it seems quite clear that employers are more likely than not to take your CV seriously if the letters LSE appear near the top of the page. (No word on whether the letters ELS, SEL, LES, or ESL have such impact.) It won’t get you hired automatically, but it opens many doors for you to walk through.
Return (b), however, is far more interesting, because it captures all those things that can’t be neatly expressed in a cover letter, CV, or even interview, but is in the long run far more consequential than (a) (which to some degree is driven by (b) – why would LSE have the brand it does if it wasn’t producing people who could transform organizations?). I’d argue that if you’re looking for a school, look past a focus on (a): any of the schools in the top tier, here or Stateside, will open doors for you. It’s far more important to focus on how a school will prepare you for what you do once you walk through those doors.