Is there a term for doing something (studying, going to a university, ...) only for the offered degree or diploma? (And, for example, not caring about learning)

For example, a term to fit here:

Nowadays, [...] is a serious problem in the academic community. For the majority of students, the sole purpose of going to the university is to get a degree.

  • Anti-intellectualism (or one of its causes/effects, such as 'shortsightedness' or 'capitalism') would fit nicely in the blank (Imo) – Papa Poule Sep 27 '15 at 12:54

It's more of a US expression rather than an international English one, but I think it fits; "paper chasing".

  • It looks like a good choice. But it doesn't seem to have a negative meaning by definition (which is what I'm after). – Mahm00d Sep 27 '15 at 13:46
  • 2
    @Mahm00d : I'm not sure I'd agree there; I've always regarded the expression as being one that has a somewhat negative connotation, even though the OED definition didn't explicitly state that. In modern times at least paper is something which has relatively little value, and expressions like "paperwork" are usually used with some distaste. Consequently the "chase" for a piece of paper (the diploma / degree) as distinct from the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and wisdom has always struck me as being something to be looked down upon. – Alan K Sep 27 '15 at 17:46

In order of increasing pejorative force, I offer you


These all work with your example as they stand. With slight rephrasing,


would work as well, although it is a more generally applicable term when standing alone, without context to define the domain of application.

To rephrase to fit your example, "Mercenary enrollees are a serious problem ...".

  • +1 because I like the alliteration in "diploma digging" (or "degree digging"). I'm not sure that I'd agree with "mercenary" though. Many students chase that bit of paper because too many employers won't even look at candidates who lack degrees these days. I've seen this in job advertisements, and have encountered this in my own workplace. It's lazy thinking; "If we get an MBA, we get a better class of candidate!" Me: "No, we get someone who will get bored in that job, leave and we have to recruit again." This mindset isn't the fault of the students; they feel necessity, not greed. – Alan K Sep 28 '15 at 0:11
  • @AlanK, mercenaries do it for a living. – JEL Sep 28 '15 at 7:41
  • Agreed. But it's also true that some people do it (it being any given vocation) as a passion, but still have no choice about whether to take a degree or not. There are many sub-fields of science (say veterinary science or environmental science, even some social work) that could probably be taught as technical training rather than degree training were it not for the fact that people often need the latter to get their foot in the door. In such a case yes, it's their living, BUT it's not their motivation. – Alan K Sep 28 '15 at 8:45
  • 1
    +1 I also like "degree-digging" (it's got a great rhythm!). About "mercenary", I don't think it would work. I'm not adept in English, but I don't think only chasing a degree is something "unethical" that "mercenary" suggests. – Mahm00d Sep 28 '15 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.