The Mary Anne Thompson saga has certainly got media in a frenzy -- the level of coverage suggests it's more important to most of the local hacks than the tragedies in Burma and Sichuan.
That doesn't seem right to me.
But even with all that focus, once again the reef fish from the Fourth Estate are at the wrong end of what's relevant.
Mary Anne Thompson was supposed to have a BA, an MA, and a PhD in Economics. She was employed in the Civil Service on the basis of those degrees (known euphemistically as a 'Bugger All,' a 'Mockery of Academia,' and a 'Piled Higher & Deeper' respectively) and then rose to the top of the bureaucracy on the basis of her performance. Her degrees got her in the door, but it was her performance including in the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, achieved without apparent benefit of university education, that got her promotion -- and right to the very top, over the heads of those who did hold genuine degrees. Her performance, sans degrees, was clearly head and shoulders above theirs, with degrees.
Doesn't that pose some important questions -- far more important than the questions being asked by the media?
The most important thing here is not that Mary Anne Thomson lied -- after all, politicians and senior civil servants lie for a living every day (to say nothing of many of the media). It's absolute humbug now for those very people to say Ms Thompson's chief crime is to lie.
It certainly brings into question the over-importance that's been given to what used to be called 'personnel departments,' and are now known as 'human resources sinecures.' These are the time-servers who act as gatekeepers for most employment these days, despite knowing next to nothing about the jobs for which they're employing people, and (clearly) next to nothing about the credentials of candidates they're supposed to be checking.
But the chief question, it seems to me, is how relevant those qualifications really are to one's on-the-job performance? How much use is a handful of degrees in one's day-to-day work in the Civil Service, or indeed, anywhere else?
I'd strongly suggest the value of a university education (and certainly of the university education one would receive today) has has been widely assumed, but largely irrelevant. These things have been used as entry tickets to a career, but as an accurate guide to judging an employee's likely performance, they're about as much use to employee and employer both as tits would be on a bull.
In sum, and conventional wisdom notwithstanding, the value of a contemporary university education has been vastly overstated.