With thousands of young people heading off to university every year, Britain has one of the highest rates of attendance in Europe. It seems that university remains as popular as ever. Despite the rise in tuition fees and the cutting of maintenance grants, going to uni seems to be the dream of many young people. It is often seen as the ‘best choice’ for what to do once your A-levels are over. With promises of great careers in high-skilled workplaces, not to mention a high salary, it would seem that university is the best choice. But what if a lot of the advice you are hearing is wrong? What if the statistics paint a different picture and university was not quite the dream ticket you were led to believe?
Of course, a great many people have a great time at university, and some do go on to forge successful, well-paid careers straight after graduation. But for the majority of graduates it is a different story. The problem is that the supply of high-skilled jobs is far outweighed by the number of graduates leaving university each year.
This means that a great many university graduates end up taking jobs that are far below their skill level. In fact, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that one on ten graduates ends up taking low-skilled jobs in places such as coffee shops and bars. While these jobs bring in some money, of course, they are not the dream career that many students will have spent thousands of pounds in tuition fees to land.
With nearly 60% of all graduates failing to land a high-skilled job, it looks like the years and money spent at university were wasted when it came to landing a dream career. This also has a knock-on effect for the economy as a whole, with the CIPD reporting that an estimated 45% of graduates will never earn a high enough wage to repay their loans.
With the figures showing that more people are going to university than ever, the problem of finding highly-skilled employment at the other side of graduation looks set to get worse. This is not to suggest that more high-skilled work might not become available in the next three years or so, but that young people and their parents really need to consider the realities of what a university education will offer.
The problem is one of perception. Of course, if you always believed that university would offer you the best chance in life, then of course you will go if you can. But it seems that this perception is not quite matching up to modern reality.
It is worth investigating the options and researching other routes to employment – whether an apprenticeship or perhaps even a sponsored degree, for example. In the past, without the burden of tuition fees, going to university was not such a gamble for students. But today, with the prospect of being lumbered with large levels of debt, and without the promise of a well-paid job; when it comes to career prospects, for the majority, university is proving to be an expensive waste of time.
Of course, not all universities and not all degrees are equal, with some being more desirable for employers. For the privileged few university can still offer the chance to cherry-pick the best jobs, but for many graduates they may have well saved themselves the money and taken a different route into work.
University can offer an experience that you will not get elsewhere and there is a chance of landing a great job afterwards, but the figures show that this is not the reality for most graduates. Don’t let yourself be mis-sold a dream of what awaits after university – it may not be quite what you expected. Instead, do your research, be sure of what to expect, and seriously consider your options.
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