Every year, thousands of people like ourselves leave school and decide to go to university in pursuit of a degree. In a world where it is becoming increasingly competitive to get a job, university for many is the natural step to take after completing school in the hope of standing out in a sea of potential job applicants. However, with education fees rising and more people than ever graduating with a degree, it is worth asking whether university is actually worth it, and if there is a more sensible option to take after finishing school.
As a Humanities student who has limited contact hours a week, I am a firm believer that paying £9000 a year is an extortionate price to pay for what I receive. Prior to attending university, people are aware of both the financial commitment they are taking on and what they receive in return. This begs the question that even when people are aware of this, why do they continue to pursue the university route? On a personal level, I settled on attending university because I know how competitive the job market is and how hard it is to make yourself stand out to potential employers.
For our parents’ generation, having a degree was a standout achievement with fewer people attending higher education. Years on, with the number of people graduating from universities increasing, the value of a degree has decreased significantly and is no longer the same achievement it once was. To an extent, it is almost expected the majority of people will attend university. With some employers not willing to interview applicants unless they have a degree, it is understandable why people take the financial plunge to go to university.
I settled on attending university because I know how competitive the job market is and how hard it is to make yourself stand out to potential employers
It is not only employers who expect people to attend university, as many schools also push many of their students to attend. When I was in Sixth Form, my school promoted university and made it seem like it was the only option available to us. For many, university served as a useful way to stall decision-making about the future instead of considering other options which could allow access into a job quicker.
In my school year group, there were only a handful of people who decided university was not the path for them, and they faced pressure from multiple teachers to apply for UCAS anyway in case they changed their minds. By the teachers creating an environment where it seemed unnatural for people to choose not to go to university, I found it surprising when I spoke to people who did not want to go as this was not what the majority of people were doing.
In hindsight, I think I misunderstood and to an extent sneered at their decision as I didn’t realise it was a sensible move for them to do an apprenticeship instead. Too often, people who decide to go to university do not appreciate the multitude of benefits an apprenticeship can offer. It allows an improved and more realistic idea of what the world of work is like and can often give someone a foothold into a job, all the while being in a better financial situation without the thousands of pounds of student debt.
Too often, people who decide to go to university do not appreciate the multitude of benefits an apprenticeship can offer
Whilst I have been talking rather negatively of choosing university as a post-school option I will concede, however, that there are enormous benefits of going to university which people would miss out on if they went straight into work or an apprenticeship. I think about my own experiences of mixing with people of different backgrounds and being part of different societies which has allowed me to gain more confidence and become more self-sufficient; something I know I would have missed out on if I had gone straight into an apprenticeship.
I’m definitely not saying £9000 is worth it, but I’m also not ready to write off a degree as a post-18 option that is without any benefits. Instead, I think more credit should be given to apprenticeships and the chances they offer, and that they should be equally promoted in schools as a practical post-18 option.