We often hear from young people who say that their parents are either pushing them to go to university, or are mad that their teenagers have decided against it. This can put a lot of stress on young people who feel caught between their own decision for the future and pleasing their parents. The fact is, for a lot of young people, what your parents say or advise has a real bearing on what you will do when you leave school or college. Not only may you feel the need to bow down to their experience and wisdom, but you may also need to rely on them for important things such as where you live, your meals, and other essentials. Understandably, a lot of young people feel the need to go along with what their parents think or say is best for them – which can mean heading off to university despite not really wanting to go. But why are so many parents (and teachers) pro-uni? And are they out-of-touch with the way things are today?
Before you can understand how things are, you need to take a look at the past. This will help you understand why your teachers and parents may be holding on to the idea that you should definitely go to university if you want to get ahead in life. This will also help explain why, despite the cost of university these days, so many young people are still opting to head off to uni.
Before students were asked to cover the cost of tuition, university was something of a free pass to three more years of study. This not only gave you more time to decide what you actually wanted to do with your life, but it also made a university education less of a gamble. A debt-free degree meant that you could enter the job market with an extra qualification, but without the fear that you will have wasted your money on a qualification that didn’t, in reality, get you much further than your peers who went straight into work.
There is still a common belief that university is where the best and brightest go to further their education, prospects, and themselves. It is almost as if there is no viable alternative and that to get ahead you simply have to go to university.
This belief was one that came from a time when it was rare for those from working class backgrounds to go – which created a tiered system of education. The wealthy and the privileged went to university and landed the plum jobs, while everyone else left school and went to work. This is the period that has informed much of the thinking about university being the best choice to get ahead, and may actually go back to your grand-parents’ time, or before.
However, as time went on, more young people were able to go to university, and of course, it was seen as a great thing to suddenly have access to this world of privilege and prospects. Understandably then, more young people started to be told to continue their education, take A levels, and go on to university. It seemed that the meal ticket to a better life had become something that everyone could aspire to.
As we got towards the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s there was a period of recession when jobs were scarce, so young people were advised to delay their entry into the world of work. This gave them time for the economy to recover and the job market to improve.
Without the burden of tuition fees, this delaying tactic had very few negatives for students, who could emerge from university with a qualification and start looking for work three years later. However, the knock-on effect was that there were more and more graduates competing for the same ‘graduate level’ jobs, meaning that many were left to find work that they were over-qualified for.
Despite this, the surge of young people heading to university continued and year after year, graduates found themselves thrust into competing for jobs against not just their own year’s graduates, but those who had left university before them and had not yet found suitable work.
Of course, this was great news for graduate employers who could pick and choose from a vast pool of potential employees, and soon many jobs that didn’t previously require a degree began to ask for one. But, with the introduction of tuition fees for students the whole game was changed and it suddenly became important for students to earn a wage high enough to repay the thousands that they had accrued in debt.
The trouble was that there still existed a disparity between the number of graduates and the amount of graduate-level jobs. This leads us to the present-day situation, where students are now wondering if they are getting value for money from their degree courses, and if the time and expense is worth it at the end.
Of course, there are still some professions that ask you to have a degree, but as more professions choose to offer alternative routes, such as apprenticeships, the need to go to university to get a good career has lessened.
Taking a look at all of your options is now more important than ever, and the old model of ‘go to uni and get a good career’ is no longer set in stone. The fact is that times have changed since your parents and teachers were at school, and now the options to get into a good career have opened up. But, without them knowing, it is understandable that they may still feel that university is the best option regardless.
So, what can you do about it?
The best thing is to sit down with your parents and try to fully explore all of the options available to you. These days university is not the be-all and end-all of getting a successful career, it is just one choice among many. The key is in working out which career path is best for you.