Egeld doesn’t really have any institutions for higher education like universities. Rather, there are lots of independent teachers specializing in different subjects who individually accept, teach and are paid by students. So after a student completes their initial elementary education (usually at a local physical school), if they know the specific subject, the little niche, that they want to go into, they’ll find a master teacher on that subject. Then they’ll devise a plan of study to help them eventually be accepted into the teacher’s classes. Most master teachers publish recommendations for study before their courses to help guide such students. If, however, a student doesn’t know what they want to do, they would make a preliminary plan of study to help lead themselves to a decision of field.
Whatever the goal is, this plan of study would mostly include courses of various lengths from different independent teachers. Someone wanting to eventually take a master teacher’s class on how to combat government corruption in parliamentary democracies might take a year-long “Introduction to Parliamentary Government” course from one teacher; a 2-month statistics course from another teacher in a different city; a 3-month “Introduction to Governmental Reform” in another teacher in yet another city; a 6-month research project led by another teacher in another country; and so on. Each course would be hand-picked by the student from the huge selection of courses available to students in Egeld and in other countries – though of course they would probably get advice and would have to keep in mind limitations of expense, distance, and so on. Students usually find courses in huge, Yellow-Pages-style directories organized by subject. Elementary schools and government offices often have copies of these directories available for students to look at, or students can buy them if they have the money.
Each course requires it own application, which is generally read and judged by the teacher themselves. When a student is accepted, they generally need to pay the teacher an initial deposit before the course begins, and then the rest of the cost after the course is finished. Finally, if the student does well in their course, the teacher gives them a signed certificate saying so…which the student then usually includes with the application to the next course on their plan. Teachers will also often contact each other to get information about students they’re considering.
Additionally, most students supplement their courses by reading books, doing projects and internships, and so on. Students often write short summaries or response essays to books they’ve read to show that they’ve understood the material, and then sometimes include these responses in their applications. Other programs for students have processes similar to those of normal courses for applying, paying, and getting a pretty certificate once you’re finished.
Once a student believes that they have enough background in their chosen field, they can then apply to a master teacher for what’s called “comprehensive certification.” Once they’ve been accepted, the teacher will give a course on their very particular area of specialty. Then the teacher will also assign and judge various exams, papers, projects, and so on so their students can prove their knowledge in the whole field – not just their tiny area of specialty. Once the teacher has been satisfied, they will sign a “comprehensive certificate” saying that the student has a good working knowledge of the whole field with especial knowledge of the teacher’s own area. This is more or less like a degree.
Comprehensive certificates from some teachers require little work, while others require many years of study – it all depends on the teacher and the field. This makes higher education very flexible for Egeldish students. So say, for instance, that you’ve been studying for a year or two, aiming to eventually specialize in how to combat government corruption in parliamentary democracies, but you decide that you want to stop, settle down, and have a family soon. This is perfectly possible. You could just see what courses you’ve already taken and find a master teacher who could give you a comprehensive certificate in some field of political science given your amount of knowledge. Then you could always continue your studies later and get a better comprehensive certification. So this system allows for many levels of specialty and depth.
Now how do such students live and pay for all their courses and projects and whatnot? After all, teachers almost never provide housing or food or anything to their students. In general, students work at the same time as they’re enrolled in courses. Jobs in factories, on farms, as assistant teachers, and in the government are particularly common. Students usually live together in shared apartments, generally boarding-house-types where an established family supervises the students and cooks and cleans for them to some extent. Moving is very common, as most students need to go all over Egeld in order to take all the courses they want. As a result, students avoid having many possessions. Another result is that marriage among students is quite rare – even if two students were married, they would need to be separate for long periods of time in order to pursue their own studies, or they would have to take all the same courses. But even taking the same courses would be difficult, since the couple couldn’t be sure they’d both get accepted by a teacher. Even if a student had a spouse who wasn’t a student at the time, the spouse would have to move constantly. And certainly even married students leave their studies if they have children, except for a very adventurous few.
One more tricky thing is mail. Reliable mail service is important so students can contact and apply to teachers, receive replies, communicate with family and friends, and so on, but moving constantly makes delivering mail reliably rather difficult. So students generally pay the government in their home provinces for a “Student Mail Service.” All mail for them goes to the province’s central post office. The student can always go there and look at their mail. But then the post office will also send copies of their mail to whatever address the student is currently living at; whenever the student moves, they write to the post office and change the address to forward the copies to. Sending copies like this ensures that nothing important will get lost, since the original will always be at the central post office. (You can see why the major fire at the central post office of a northern Egeldish province in 1499 was such a problem.) However, the government-run mail service in Egeld is limited to letters, magazines, flyers, and other kinds of writing. You have to use a privately-run mail service in order to send other types of things.