As January 15th drifts passed once more and with it the UCAS undergraduate deadline, the question strikes me again – are our students making a good decision committing themselves to university? This year we have 114 applicants to UK universities and, to this, we will add a good number of applicants to Europe, the US and the rest of the world. This compares with approximately 45% of sixth form students who head off for university nationally, but are they making a good decision? What can they expect to get out of the experience?
Degree courses are a fantastic educational opportunity – they give students the opportunity to create a programme of study for themselves like never before. That process should begin with the initial choice of university because studying English at Bristol, for instance, is not the same as studying English at York. The first thing to get right is to choose the university that offers the most appealing content, options and method of assessment in the appropriate subject. Background work at this stage certainly reaps dividends in the long run.
The next big decision will be the location of the university – after all, students have to spend a minimum of three years of their lives there. So should it be campus or city based, located in a lively built up area or somewhere more green and leafy? Visiting universities is crucial to getting a true feel of its atmosphere and is definitely worth the effort.
Going to university for study is only a small part of the value, in my view. It is the first step towards true independence – budgeting for bills, cooking meals, doing laundry, dealing with utility services, considering which insurance policy gives better value and so on. These are skills for life which will be added to other transferable skills such as time management skills, responsibility, critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate. The truth of the matter is that employers still admire these high level qualifications and that, ultimately, they will lead to better job prospects and greater earning potential, especially as careers progress.
There are, of course, examples of non-graduate success stories like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs but they are in a minority. Whilst going to university is not the only option in a changing face of Higher Education (more on this from Richard Judd in a couple of weeks) I think it is an option that should be given serious consideration.
Head of Staff Development, Global and Community