Is University Still Worthwhile?
by Beth Cherryman
The uni years: no longer a given
They’re supposed to be the best years of your life. Away from home, high on life, willing to experience anything and everything, and maybe – just maybe – learning about a subject that genuinely interests you.
But this year the looming UCAS deadline provides the focus for many a difficult dilemma.
18-year-olds up and down the country must weigh up the cost of a university education against its benefit. A sum that only seems to get more complex.
UK home tuition fees have gone up a dramatic 200 per cent for students entering in 2012.
Increasingly the graduate premium is restricted to those who graduate with upper seconds, or even firsts for subjects like law. Even then more emphasis is being placed on university rankings. If you’re unlikely to get a ‘good’ degree from a ‘good’ university is it worth investing 3 years and £27,000 tuition fees?
Then again the latest figures show unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds has increased by 54,000 to 1.03 million, the highest since records began in 1992, perhaps it’s better to delay joblessness for three or four years.
Reducing university education to a question of economics seems to miss the point, but the very idea of tuition fees unfortunately blinds many prospective students to this view.
However evidence suggests prospective students have been put off. It doesn’t matter if, as David Willetts, universities minister, argues, the debt is only perceived debt and contingent on how much monetary benefit you actually receive from your degree.
Devolution has given Wales the power to offer generous subsidies to Welsh students from 2012.
A spokesman for Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills, said:
If you normally live in Wales and are going to university next academic year you will be no worse off than if you had gone to university this year.
We do not support full-cost or near full-cost fees for higher education. We also do not believe that higher education should be organised on the basis of a market. We are preserving the principle that the state should subsidise higher education and maintain opportunities for all.
A university education is still a worthwhile investment. Graduate employability is a key outcome of the higher education experience. Research shows that on average graduates still earn more than their peers, and are still more likely to be in employment.
The Student View
A quick whip round the Student Union bar at Cardiff University returned, perhaps unsurprisingly, the consensus university education remains beneficial but the increased fees will focus the choices of students with graduate prospects a key consideration.
Oh, and it’s not my fault trainee journalists permanently inhabit the bar.
Postgrad Lis worries that we’re getting to the stage where young people might want to think before going to university.
It used to very much be an extension of school and the normal thing to go and do, whereas now I know a girl who is very very clever but not going to university and I think it’s because of the high fees.
First-year Luke says he’s not enjoying his studies yet, but if he wasn’t at university he’d be working. He says he may as well try and do something different for a while.
It’s totally unfair but there’s nothing we can do about it the country’s in debt and people have to pay for it. Maybe it will filter out the people who just want a free life for a bit.
First-year Ed did not take a gap year to avoid the high fees for 2012 entry. He would still recommend his course in spite of high fees “it’s worthy”.
I’ve got friends in the year below me and the fee increase makes them consider taking a gap year because they want to experience their time elsewhere before going to university.
First-year Daniel says university was a natural choice and thinks it’s still an important aspect of life. He doesn’t view the debt as that bigger deterrent when actually at university.
You’re coming out with £20,000 plus worth of debt it’s important to do something with prospects. Law, maths, the sciences those type of degrees I reckon will become a lot more popular.
Postgrad Charlotte has reservations recommending university given the massive debts students will incur, but does not think choosing vocational degrees is a way around the problem.
Just because you do a more vocational degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job at the end of it. If you do English you’re still just as likely to get a job in my eyes.
Universities Overview 2012
Combining the fees table compiled by the BBC and the university rankings from Complete University Guide and plotting them on a map it is clear almost everywhere is charging the full £9,000.
View University Tuition Fees and Rankings 2012 Map in a full screen map or in a full Data Table.
As of last week (December 2) it was announced that some universities were cutting their tuition fees because they needed to fill places.
Here are the revised fees.
For students entering in 2012, university is no longer a given but a carefully balanced equation and a risk.
Do you think it’s worth it?