For many students studying at school or sixth form college, university is their planned destination. It has been this way for decades, with a university degree being promoted as a gateway to a better career, brighter prospects, and a glittering future. Certainly there are many high-paid jobs that ask for graduate applicants only, while some entire career paths require a university education to enter them. However, times are changing faster than our perceptions of university degrees, so perhaps it is time to reassess our thoughts on the university route to success?
Speak with your parents (or perhaps your grand-parents) and they may tell you of a time when university was a destination for a privileged few. Most young people would head out to work after school, or possibly undertake some form of training, leaving university as an option that was for the gifted and the wealthy. Fortunately, times changed and university became more accessible to a greater number of young people.
While it could be argued that some university colleges took longer than others to accept this influx of ‘working class’ students, a lack of tuition fees and the grants system meant that university was supposed to be somewhere that accepted you on merit – if you were smart enough to get the grades you got in.
This is, of course still the case today. Given the grades and an offer from a university, anyone is free to go to university. There is, however, two vital differences, The first is the cost of university. With tuition fees currently standing at a maximum of £9,000 per year (and set to rise), plus the loss of maintenance grants, a university education has become a financial consideration. While the wealthy may be able to afford to pay for their children to go to university, for the poorest in society it becomes a more pressing question.
There is the loan structure, which allows students to borrow the money they need and only pay it back when they are earning over a set amount, but the thought of such large debts can be discouraging, especially when considered alongside the other important change to university education.
Whereas graduates were once a rare and desired commodity, there are now so many graduates vying for work that there are not enough graduate level jobs to go around. That is, that high-paying job is no longer promised to you just by waving your degree certificate around!
This means that it is entirely possible (if not likely) that you will leave university with thousands of pounds of debt, and without the promise of the great career you desired. In fact, many graduates are forced to take jobs that they could have landed as school-leavers!
Many students are looking at alternative options to university in order to get their careers underway, and with the improvements to the quality of apprenticeships, this is proving one popular destination, and not just to those who were “not clever enough” to go to university!
The fact is, university remains a great option for many students up and down the country, with the ‘student lifestyle,’ and the promise of further education, it is still an option that a great number of students will enjoy. However, it is no longer the same guarantee of career success that it once was – so perhaps it is time to get up-to-date and take a look at all the options before sending off that UCAS form?
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