Is a British university degree worth having any more? by Boudicca Fox-Leonard for the Telegraph

In an article for the Telegraph dated 28.05.22 on the state of higher education, Boudicca Fox-Leonard assesses the value of apprenticeships which many students and employers are choosing as an alternative to the standard three-year degree.

In weighing up the pros and cons of each, Fox-Leonard interviews four school leavers who give their verdict on the choices they have made.

After all, with student debt now standing at £45.000 per person for a three year degree

“[that is] a lot to pay for the memory of a busy social life and a lack of adult responsibilities.”

Is it worth it? For the Russell Group Universities:

“The answer would appear to be yes. Graduates are reassured that they will earn more on average than those who never went to university, typically taking home £35,000 a year, compared with £25,500 for those without a degree. Around 80 per cent of graduates see a positive financial return, averaging £100,000 to £130,000, over their lifetime.

There are other less immediately quantifiable benefits, for instance in social mobility. According to James Turner, chief executive of educational charity the Sutton Trust, university remains the surest route to upward mobility – and the highest-ranked universities remain the best bets for getting top-paid jobs.

Data from the Graduate Outcomes survey showed that 80 per cent of the 2018/19 cohort of graduates from Russell Group universities were in highly skilled employment 15 months after graduation compared with 67 per cent of those from other UK universities.”

In terms of value for money, the main concerns appear to be at the other end of the university spectrum:

“Analysis of data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) by Telegraph Money and wealth manager Hargreaves Lansdown in 2020, found Bolton University ranked at the bottom in terms of providing value for money.

The average male graduate from Bolton University will be earning just under £22,000 by age 29 (£18,500 for female graduates), which is less than the average earnings of someone with no degree and fewer than 5 A*-C GCSEs at the same age.

Amid concerns about the quality of some degree courses, last month it was revealed that universities are to face Ofsted-style inspections for the first time. One particular worry is that virtual teaching has taken root during the Covid-19 pandemic. Several universities have faced student anger about an ongoing reliance on online and “blended” tuition, which some view as a convenient way to ratchet up student numbers without investing in additional infrastructure.

Small wonder many are looking for alternatives:

Access Training UK, which specialises in trade courses, has seen demand for its services explode, with a 29 per cent increase in applications since June 2021. The most popular professions that people are hoping to transition into are electricians, with a 38 per cent increase, closely followed by increases in trainee gas engineers (29 per cent) and plumbers (24 per cent).

Many of the UK’s most cutting-edge technology companies are also expanding their apprenticeship programmes, recruiting an increasing number of school-leavers alongside graduates. Young people are being offered the chance to become software engineers, accountants and bankers without following the traditional university-at-18 route.

The St Martin’s Group helps connect young people with employer-led apprenticeships at some of the UK’s largest companies, including Network Rail, IBM and BT. Meanwhile, the aerospace company BAE Systems is set to hire a record 900 apprentices across the UK in 2022.

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

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