Do Young People think University is worth it?
Choosing whether or not to go to university is a tough decision, especially since there are now plenty of alternatives. Numerous students are weighing up whether or not they are still getting value for money for their rising tuition fees, and this choice in particular has been amplified by the impact of COVID. With tuition fees rising, clubs and lecture theatres closed and career prospects left in the balance, many have been left with the question - is university worth it? John (age 19) and Callum (age 18) gave us their insights and perspectives on the different options available and the routes they have decided to take.
Since gaining a degree doesn’t guarantee you a graduate job, and the unemployment landscape is currently unclear, young people’s trust in a degree’s worth is shaken. We spoke to 19 year old John, who has decided that university is not the path he will be taking. Currently working at Waitrose, John is hoping to gain an apprenticeship and experience while earning at the same time, meaning he avoids debt accumulated through going to university. Although university was initially considered by John, he has decided against it due to being uncertain about what he would study and the insecurity of the outcome at the end of the degree.
John is one of many students who have decided against the university route. The popularity of apprenticeships has increased considerably over the past five years, driven by the many different and diverse roles you can pursue and gain real life experience in while also earning. Apprenticeships can be seen as a way of getting a job when degrees no longer guarantee higher level roles - in 2018, 59% of graduates were in jobs deemed to be non-graduate roles. COVID has accelerated this; in 2020, the Institute of Student Employers’ research showed that more than a quarter of employers have actually cut their graduate recruitment and the number of graduate jobs being advertised has seen a sharp decline. These figures have raised concern and the question of whether the debt accrued during a degree is worth it – or if an apprenticeship is a better choice.
However, many young people still see a university degree as the best path for their future - despite the COVID complications, applications to universities in the UK actually increased in 2020. We spoke to Callum, a last minute university attendee who articulated many of the reasons young people are still choosing to go to university: “I actually only decided to go to uni after results day. I realised all my friends were going and with travelling off the cards and little opportunity for jobs at the moment, I thought why not, it can only further the opportunities I have available for me. It’s an expensive last minute decision, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.”
University isn’t all about sitting in lectures; social experiences and gaining independence are often what gives university its value. For those beginning their university chapter in 2020, times have changed and precautions are in place. Students can find themselves confined to halls at short notice, and Zoom Fresher’s events have become the norm while social gatherings are restricted and monitored for numbers. Callum recognises that his fresher’s experience hasn’t been normal, however he doesn’t know it any other way and still feels he’s getting some of those essential university experiences.
We at The Hub have a long history of carrying out research in the education and learning sector, looking at all aspects of young people’s lives. If you’re interested in an up-to-date view of young people and how they are viewing university and the different options available, get in touch with Helen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Afra (email@example.com).