Sylvia Nankivell explores the pros and cons of encouraging students to go to university.
The big question in the heads of many school leavers is “should I go to university?” With increased tuition fees, the normalisation of undergraduate degrees and a financially turbulent job market, the decision is no longer a simple one. A recent study revealed that over a third of millennial graduates regret going to university. In such uncertainty, many students rely upon the advice and support of their teachers.
Teachers hold a commitment to education; yet also want what is truly best for their students. Knowing the correct advice is difficult but, like any big choice, there is a discussion to be had and below are the two main questions teachers are asking themselves.
What are the pros for students going to university?
1. Greater job prospects
The big reason inspiring most people to go to university is the promise of better job prospects. Encouraging students to consider their long-term future and life careers is the main reasoning for teachers encouraging university. A 2013 study found that 92% of recent graduates found jobs within six months of leaving university. Considering the actual statistics, university students are highly likely to find work, even in today’s job market. University is an investment; three years of higher education and a lifetime of better job opportunities.
2. Life experience and independence
In addition to academic experience, university offers an abundance of life experience. Students are often encouraged to leave home and begin an independent lifestyle. The career benefits of university are not only in grades and exam results but also in social activities. Campus society involvement shows off a well-rounded, passionate and energetic personality. Students discover as much about themselves as their chosen subject by developing friendships, networking with professors and learning basic life skills like financing, cooking and housework. Although university fees are a large concern for most students, the harsh financial reality can inspire responsibility and maturity, and various student sites are available to offer information and support.
3. The joy of studying a subject with passion
Perhaps the most rewarding benefit of university is personal satisfaction for the students. Higher education offers the amazing possibility to dive headfirst into a loved subject. To advance and specialise in a field of study with passion is an exceptional and fortunate opportunity. Most students value and appreciate their time at university. Recent University league tables show graduates to be predominantly content with university experience, with the University of Buckinghamshire displaying an impressive 4.36 level of student satisfaction. Encouraging an enthusiasm for learning in younger generations ultimately leads to greater job and life satisfaction for the students themselves.
What are the cons for students going to university?
1. Job prospects are not necessarily greater
Although improved job prospects are a main reason for going to university, some studies show that this is not necessarily the case. Research shows that, with just under 50% of recent graduates in non-graduate jobs, career prospects are still limited for those with university degrees. Yes, most graduates might be employed after university, but probably not in the industry of which they studied.
2. Apprenticeships can be more rewarding
University can prepare students for certain skill sets, but not all. While some professions require higher qualifications, many manual and labour jobs value experience over education. Construction, plumbing or electrician apprenticeships offer hands on experience that is more useful than theoretical learning. Even common university subjects might be better explored through apprenticeships, such as engineering, business or design. This study shows these routes to be financially beneficial. Comparing average high level apprenticeship earnings with those from a non-Russell group university graduate proves that earning a degree is not always the best option.
3. University fees can be a financial burden
The financial benefits of not studying are more immediate than lifetime earnings. In 2010, the UK government increased the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per year. With 76% of institutions charging the highest rates, studies show the average cost of a three-year course to be £26,000. It is important to consider the value of university education acknowledging the financial investment involved. School leavers have the alternative option to go straight into the job market and begin earning money straight away.
University is not the only type of education. Through learning in the workplace, the role of education is given a new outlet. Perhaps the best a teacher can do is encourage the best, well-researched choice for the needs of each individual student. In today’s job market, we should all be aware that university is not always the best option. Yet undeniably for some people, university days are the best of a person’s life.