Education

IS UNIVERSITY EDUCATION THE ONLY OPTION?

For many years, university degrees have been praised as the most appropriate route to a professional job with an impressive salary. But with more than half of the younger generation now pursuing higher education, graduates have found themselves competing in a highly crowded market.

According to a recent survey, 1 in 10 employers argued that university degrees are now worthless. More than 40% of employers mentioned that they value relevance experience and vocational qualifications over a university degree.

With the rising tuition fees, is going to university still a worthy investment? Lucy Tobin, the author of A Guide to University Life says that young people are now questioning the value of university education. She goes ahead to say that the attitude towards degrees has changed tremendously over the last few decades from a luxury to being a necessity. But as degrees get more expensive to pursue, this could reverse.

According to Tobin, the younger generation could start exploring alternative routes like employer-sponsored study, distance learning, and part-time courses which let them combine study with work.

Rising Student Debt

Sarah Rotundo-Fergusson, who went to Lady Eleanor Holles School located in Middlesex, declined an offer to study at Cambridge University so as to combine her work with part-time study via the Open University. According to her, not following the conventional university route has aided her in getting ahead of her age mates. While most of her friends who went to campus are still struggling to make a move on their career ladder, at only 24, she manages a day nursery in Berkshire with her company car and an impressive salary. She also has a home of her own.

She says that people thought she was out of her senses when she decided to work in a nursery for only 11,000 pounds a year. This meant that she qualified for financial aid from the Open University to pursue a degree in youth and childhood studies. She graduated with a 2:1 and is not living with any student debt. She thinks that was the most significant factor in her decision.

Degrees Vs. Vocational Qualifications

The last few years have experienced tremendous growth in vocational learning, with the greatest being the two-year foundation degrees offered in many FE colleges and universities. These courses focus on the skills required at the workplace and could be advanced to degree level with an extra year of study. John Haynes, the skills minister, has passion about getting back the prestige that was previously enjoyed by craftspeople with the government pledging 250 million pounds of funding to create more than 75,000 adult apprenticeships in the next four years.

But the question remains, how do employers view people bearing vocational qualifications compared to people with degrees? Tanya de Grunwald, who founded Graduate Fog, a careers advice website thinks that a few employers are biased against part-time degrees, distance learning, and vocational qualifications. However, she still feels that this is bound to change. The conventional university path has for long been assumed to be the best option. And with many people having a degree, people still fear that failing to have one could be a stigma. This is, however, bound to change and the market will offer more options to young people.

Employers also appear to be catching on. Deloitte, a business advisory firm, which bears an excellent history for mass graduate recruitment recently launched Bright Start, an impressive A-level training program. Besides, IBM, a law company also launched their apprenticeship scheme focused particularly on probate and what is probate. Jenny Taylor, the recruitment manager at IBM, says that taking on apprentices can help IBM get to a broader set of talented young professionals.

Gaining Considerable Experience

In the modern-day economic climate, where there is stiff competition for graduate jobs, the experience is just as vital as qualifications. Jen Grafton, the alumni relations manager of Girls’ Day School Trust, says that the traditional idea of a gap year, people spend backpacking around Australia or trekking in the Andes mountains could soon be extinct. Many young people are now using the gap years to secure internships and gain work experience, so they will have more to offer their employers once they graduate.

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