Is a University Degree Becoming Less Important

Jun 18, 2019 by

In an age where the UK stands as one of the world’s best Higher Education providers, it can often seem like there is no substitute for a University or Undergraduate degree.

Can a young person afford not to take the University route and still get ahead in life? In this article we take a look at some of the often overlooked factors in whether a degree is the right opportunity for those completing their A levels and wondering: “what next?”.

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Graduate employment is on the rise

A recent survey conducted by Graduate Prospects Ltd found that employment rates amongst graduates have risen significantly over the past few years. Currently, over three quarters (76.6%) of graduates secure jobs after leaving University. But what are these jobs?

Well, recruitment agency Talint International have discovered that only 52% of graduates managed to secure graduate level jobs last year, which isn’t surprising when you consider that there are an average of 75 applications for each graduate level job.

University offers networking advantages

Wisdom dictates that it’s often ‘who you know’ that can make a difference in your career. University offers unparalleled opportunities to meet employers and experts in your field, through career fairs, guest lectures and employer workshops. A conscientious, keen student could gain a considerable advantage over their peers by taking these opportunities to enquire about the industry, their chosen subject and potential job prospects.

Many employers want someone with a degree

There are countless employers who favour those with degrees. Although, this varies significantly depending on the sector. Some employers want someone with a relevant degree, such as medicine – particularly where there is a skills shortage. However, some employers simply view a degree as a proof that you can manage your time well and work hard, so they frequently hire applicants with degrees that are not entirely relevant to the job role. A recent survey conducted by the New College of the Humanities in London found that a whopping 50% of graduates end up working in a role that is not relevant to their degree subject.

Having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job

There are often complaints about the teaching quality, value for money, contact hours, and the lack of increase in employability at UK Universities. A high profile example of this has recently come to light, as a graduate sued her University for exaggerating the prospects of a career after completing her degree. Graduate Pok Wong achieved a First Class Honours in International Business Strategy at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. Wong later sued the University for false advertising, claiming that the information provided in their prospectus was misleading and received a £60,000 settlement.  

Professional services company Ernst & Young have removed the degree classification from their entry criteria, after finding “no positive correlation between academic success and achievement in the company”. This will allow for a more varied selection of applicant demographics and will provide those who don’t have a University qualification with the same opportunity as those who have them. Publishing company Penguin Random House UK have also scrapped their requirements for candidates to have a degree, stating that their aim is to give “every applicant the opportunity to demonstrate their potential, creativity, strengths and ideas, regardless of their background.”

The information given to prospective students can be bias

Another important factor to consider when contemplating the important of a University degree is the way in which the prospect of going to University is presented to prospective students. Colleges and Sixth Forms are often given their rankings based on the percentage of their students who progress onto Higher Education. This means that the advice received from teachers at these institutions can often be biased and could potentially mislead students into believing that University is always the best option for success.

It’s not cheap

The average price for a University degree in the UK stands at a whopping £27,000 and that is constantly rising, with Universities being allowed a fee increase of up to £250 per year. This increase even applies to current students, leaving hundreds of thousands with more debt than they planned, and a sunk cost that they cannot recover if they leave. In fact, graduate debt often totals over £60,000 with a maximum maintenance loan of £8,700 each year, and around £5,000 of that amount immediately departing to pay rent. Not only that, but Universities saddle students with other hidden fees, such as college memberships and course books, resulting in a staggering 70% of University students having to use their overdrafts.

We hope this article has provided some food for thought when it comes to considering the importance of University education. If you think that University is becoming less (or more) important, let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.

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