It could be argued that accepting the debts associated with going to university is all about investing in your future. At a current maximum of £9,000 per year, university tuition fees are a large part of these debts, alongside living costs, but they are leaving many students wondering if they are getting value for money. Indeed, with recent research showing the disparity between the prospects faced by graduates from different universities, it could make you wonder if you are really getting your money’s worth when it comes to going to university?
While some academics bemoan how a university education has become tied up with notions of value-for-money, this is perhaps inevitable when you are asking people to shell out tens of thousands of pounds. Students want to know what they are getting for their money, and with 66% of university applicants saying that getting a better job was their main reason for going, it might make you wonder if the reality of graduation lives up to the hype.
In some instances, it seems that the cost of university may help forge a better career – such as with those who attend St. George’s, University of London, which came out top in a study of graduate prospects. The Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016 found that 93.4% of those who graduated in 2013 / 14 went on to find a professional job or further graduate level study following their degrees.
However, a look down the road from St. George’s paints a different picture, as the University of East London only saw 45.6% of graduates going into professional employment or further education. With over half of these graduates finding that the promise of a better career not matching up to the reality, we wonder how they feel about having paid so much in fees to get no further up the career ladder than if they hadn’t been to university at all?
But what are the alternatives?
A lot of young people are pushed into thinking university is the best chance of getting ahead and achieving a great career – but it all seems like an expensive gamble, dependant on what university you attend and what course you study. It seems that all universities are not created equal and some degrees are worth more than others.
Options such as apprenticeships have seen a rise in popularity recently, and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy looks set to push this particular career path further in the coming months and years. Elsewhere, options like sponsored degrees (where your tuition is all paid for you) also need to be promoted to young people.
A lot of young people are not being informed of all of their options, instead many are being pushed towards university debts that don’t always live up to the promises of a better life as a result. But who is going to tell you otherwise? Not the universities themselves, who have a vested interest in getting new students through the door each year, nor many teachers or parents, who are simply unaware of the range of options available to young people. Just a quick look at the range of career and study options for young people right here on NotGoingToUni may be something of an eye-opener for some!
With reports suggesting that the government are going to look into the disparity between the graduate potential of different universities, some are saying that there is a plan to remove the tuition fee cap. This would mean that universities would be able to charge as much as they believe the market could stand. However, the current system has already shown that universities are not willing to compromise on fees, with most charging the full £9,000 per year.
Perhaps, rather than seeing the maximum cost for the best universities going up, it would be better to see the cost for lesser-performing institutions reduced?
The current level of fees is already causing many young people from less well-off backgrounds to think twice about a university education, and increasing the cost will surely only exacerbate the situation further.
Encouraging young people to make the right choices comes down to information and cost. Without both being fairly maintained it seems that we remain destined to see thousands of young people heading to university on a promise and coming out with their prospects no better, but with the added burden of having paid for the privilege.