What's Wrong with University: And How to Make It Work for You Anyway.


288 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 978-1-55022-776-5
DDC 378.1'980971






Reviewed by Emily McMillan


Everyone’s university experience is different, and students have different reasons for wanting to achieve a degree. Jeff Rybak wants young people to think long and hard about these reasons before embarking on this expensive and time-consuming endeavour. His premise is that the value of a university education is not what it used to be and an undergraduate degree is really the new high-school diploma—only useful for getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder. This rather cynical tone is infused throughout the book, as Rybak discusses the various problems with the structure of a university, covering topics of grading, sessional lecturers, and tuition fees. Advice for students who are struggling includes tips on talking to family and the academic advising office. The book provides good suggestions on getting involved in campus life, reaching out into the community, and participating in student governance. However, some of the suggestions, such as starting a free school or developing a mentoring program at the university, seem impractical for a first-year undergraduate. This rather hefty book is apparently targeted toward high-school seniors to help them survive their time at university; unfortunately, the tone of the book is sociological and academic, with only the illustrations from Evan Munday providing some comic relief. It isn’t until the end of the book that the reader learns that the author worked in the service industry for eight years before deciding to enroll in university. Apparently he did not enjoy this experience because throughout the book readers are presented with a choice between flipping burgers and going to university, with only brief mentions of college and vocational school. The book may be more useful for parents or older students who want to learn about university through the eyes of a student union representative. Rybak’s urgings that young people consider all options and personal paths and to think about whether they are ready for university is an important and useful message; though readers may have to look elsewhere for ideas about alternative life paths.



Rybak, Jeff., “What's Wrong with University: And How to Make It Work for You Anyway.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28169.