Results day is upon us. For those who have lived through it, whether directly as a student, or as a friend, sibling or parent, that Thursday in August can still conjure up a roller coaster of emotions. This year, with over half of 18-30 year-olds attending university, more and more families across the UK will be sitting down in front of phones, tablets and computers come August 15th, gritting their teeth in preparation for the journey of hope, worry, regret, elation, disappointment and relief.
Some would argue that too many will be going through this process, that Universities and degrees have become too ubiquitous. I for one think that’s a dangerous, almost malicious belief – one that smacks of a deeply ingrained prejudice. Bright kids are making it despite their lack of privilege. We should all be extremely proud of that, not fearful of the competition our own kids might face.
Our university system is the envy of the world and we should protect that all costs. Those that argue UK degrees are becoming ‘worthless’ need to look at the facts. On average, graduates currently earn £10,000 a year more than their contemporaries without degrees and over 94% of graduates from Alliance Universities are within work or further study within 6 months of graduating. Of course these figures vary between courses and universities but they are not the only benefits of going to university. What about the things that are harder to measure? The lifelong friendships, the sense of independence, the support of individual staff and the university structure at this transitional point in a young person’s life. This is to say nothing of the cultural impact of artists and musicians or the benefit to society of our nurses, social workers and teachers whose skills were honed in our universities, even if their salaries do not reflect this. These wide-ranging benefits have been routinely ignored within the disgraceful rhetoric of ‘value’ and ‘Mickey Mouse degrees’.
There’s also another myth to bust- that unless you go to a certain type of university, you shouldn’t bother at all. This is utter nonsense. It does a huge disservice to those who have studied at or who have educated, supported and successfully employed students from universities that don’t bear the kitemark of age and tradition.
Universities do differ, because people differ. They may be large, small or specialist; teaching a broad spectrum of subjects or focusing on very few; using traditional academic techniques or honing skills relevant to the workplace and they are all valuable. Which university you choose will be based on a broad range of criteria, perhaps including its perceived ‘prestige’, but also maybe the career opportunities it offers, its location, the support network or teaching style. The most important thing is that these criteria are yours and not based on what someone else thinks is best. I read too many stories of bright students falling into this trap; going to a university someone else chose for them and never fulfilling their dreams because the specialist course they needed wasn’t available, or worse, dropping out altogether because it was never the right fit.
My advice to those caught up in the whirlwind this Thursday: Keep an open mind and do your homework. There are fantastic courses and opportunities at universities all around the country. If you want to be an animator, film-maker, architect or designer look to Teesside, UWE, Coventry, Oxford Brookes, Portsmouth, Greenwich and Kingston Universities for some of the best courses in the UK, and the world. Or perhaps you’d like to study social work? Head to UCLan for one of the top 5 courses in the UK. If it’s the health professions, look to University of South Wales, which offers the best course in the country. And if you thought you could only study law or medicine at a certain university, you’d be wrong. Alliance Universities all offer law degrees with fantastic facilities and many have their own medical schools.
Whatever the course for you, studying at an Alliance University will give you applied experience on a course that’s designed with your future employment in mind, allowing you to benefit from their unrivalled collaboration with the public sector and industry.
If there is one thing that university teaches is you it is to think for yourself; so start that journey now and make the right decisions for you. Look past the pomp and tradition. Employers want more than a name, they want staff with practical skills and experience. Good luck. You’ll get through it whatever the envelope holds.