If Xavi and Andrea Pirlo made a surprise break into UK politics, even they would have struggled to pass around the political football of university education any more than it has been over the last few years. Between the promotion of paid apprenticeships, ongoing increases in tuition fees and most recently maintenance grants being converted into loans, I hear many people question whether it is still worth going to University at all. After graduating myself last week, I found myself wondering the same thing, has it all been worth it?
I admit that I’ve been lucky. I was in the last group of students to pay the old lower tuition fees, a mere snip at ONLY £3,000 per year. I can’t sit here and pretend that the new £9,000 a year tuition fees should be ignored by students deciding whether or not to go to University, after all it means they’ll be graduating with around £50,000 of debt once the maintenance loan is added to it. That’s a lot by anyone’s standards! When this is combined with the fact that many firms now offer jobs that don’t require you to have a degree, you can see why many students are shying away from the traditional University route after they leave school. But if you ask me, the benefits that University education offers extend far beyond the degree you get at the end of it, and still outweigh the increasing financial negatives associated with ‘going to Uni’.
Being from a rural and fairly isolated community in Cumbria, I couldn’t wait to go to University and experience new things that I wouldn’t have had the chance to enjoy if I had stayed at home. I went to University in Manchester, and for 4 years was exposed to a wide range of people, places, and experiences that have made me a more rounded person. This is the side of University that I feel often goes overlooked; it’s difficult to put a price on, but in my opinion this alone makes university worth it. It angers me that the new financial spectre of graduate debt is putting off so many students and thus depriving them of these life changing experiences.
Universities courses, when well chosen, offer the opportunity to develop as a professional. The best part of my degree studies was my 12 month work placement at a media agency in Manchester. Not only did this introduce me to an unfamiliar industry and a great team of people, it also equipped me with a range of transferrable professional skills that have made me much more employable as I begin my hunt for my first job after University. I have a lot of hands on experience to draw upon when filling in that dreaded section of the application form… “What makes you a suitable candidate for this position?”
Obviously, the rise in tuition fees will mean it will take students much longer to pay off their student debt. Under current plans graduates will pay back 9% of the amount they earn over £21,000. If your salary is below £21,000, you do not pay back your student loans. So the debt will eat into your salary for a while, but it has been shown that graduates on average earn more than non-graduates, especially as their careers progress. So in theory the extra money earned from the degree should more than cover the student loan repayments.
So if you find yourself in this position, wondering whether or not you should make the financial commitment of going to University, I would say this: Look at the whole picture. The inevitable debt is difficult to see past, and needs to be considered. But trust me, if you choose the right University and the right degree, then you’re in for one of the best experiences of your life. Don’t let it pass you by!