My story with Dave, the kids, Cooper, VW's & rugby

Is a University Education Worth it?

With loads of people heading off this week to start their University courses there are still questions being raised about the funding that is given (or not given) and the worth of a degree. The business leaders for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have said that students should pay more back on their loans and accept higher tuition fees. I do agree with them that a university education is an investment for the nation and for the individual, but I can’t quite see why the individual has to make such a big financial investment, as well as their time. The country needs to be producing more skilled workers for sure so that we have our own stocks of employees, rather than depending on the immigration system, but we need to be making sure that we are producing the right skills, trades and crafts for a strong future.

I went to the University of Humberside in Hull and studied a BA Hons in Administrative Management, and after 3 years I left with a 2:1. When I was doing my A levels, which I messed up completely, I was on track to study History … god knows what I would have done with that so in a way it worked out best that I went through Clearing and ended up in Hull. I got a grant when I went to University which paid for my tuition fees, and then the Student Loan I got went on accommodation and food. My overdraft kept me in essentials such as lager and nights out which I paid off by working through the holidays before the next term. I left Uni with just over £3000 in student loan which took me about 8 years to pay off as I kept deferring it before I started to pay it off monthly.


I wonder what it will be like when my kids start to think about going to University in about 7 or 8 years time, and how the system will have changed. University is getting so expensive especially with the tuition fees having to be paid for, and on average people are leaving Uni with between £10,000 – £20,000 debt depending on the course. Some of the guys who work for me have upwards of £10,000 in loans….scary! Over the last six months or so I have started saving money for my kids in separate bank accounts, where each month I’ll give them £250 each which is equivalent to £3000 a year. So by the time they are ready to leave home, either to go to Uni or to get their own place they will have a lump sum that will get them a head start. So if the cost of University has increased further they will still have the opportunity to go and hopefully not be left with huge debts.

Even after getting my degree though I still had to start at the bottom of the pile and learn the real life skills as it’s not just the education side that is important but the experience more so. One thing that the government or the education body need to crack down on is the amount of what I would call useless degrees being made available. If you choose to go to University I see it that it is a way to increase your future earnings and to get ahead. If you study such courses as Ufology (the study of UFO’s), Parapsycology (the study of ghosts), Art History (looking at old pictures), and Philosophy (trying to answer unanswerable questions) then I would pretty much class this as a useless degree as we strive to build a skilled workforce.

One thing that is being seen at the moment in this time of recession is a large number of students leaving university with degrees, but no job to go to. This then means that the graduates end up taking semi skilled jobs which makes it harder for the semi skilled workforce and unskilled to keep their jobs. All a bit of a downward spiral in the employment marketplace, so maybe it is the right time to go to university to be there for a few years while the job market picks up again.

Photography by Jeco


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  • Peter Handley

    I know that I wouldn’t have got the job I have today without a degree.

    I messed up A levels due to breaking an ankle, and couldn’t get a place through clearing. I worked full time in an unrewarding role in a local supermarket – I had chances of other jobs, and good ones where I would have started at the bottom rung, but these positions were vetoed by their HR dptmts due to no degree.

    So I dragged myself back through college, got onto a degree, and 1 month later got the first job I applied for out of university.

    Having a degree opens some doors that are still closed to those without – though, as you say, you still have to start on the bottom rung, but in my case, I have been fortunate to move up the ladder pretty speedily.

    Having said that, I finished University in 2006, with more than 12k of debt, which I will be paying off slowly for the foreseeable future – but without that, I may still be earning less than half what I do now, working more hours and with terrible conditions – I view it as an additional tax, not that it makes me feel any better about it!

  • Becky

    @Peter, thanks for your thoughts. I agree having a degree certainly can open doors. The way I see a degree on a CV is that it has meant that the candidate has managed to live away from home and study to get the qualification which will have taught them independence and responsibility. Nothing can beat on the job experience though along with a degree.

  • Peter Handley

    I completely agree – the job experience certainly helps, and is equally important. I was very lucky on my degree to use real world projects as part of my course, which allowed me to come out of university with some practical experience as well as the qualification, and that certainly helped on my application for my first job

  • Rob Hughes

    I think really I’d have to say that I’m not sure I agree with the point of a degree a lot of the time myself, although obviously there are equally many opportunities that do require a degree.

    I didn’t get the results I wanted at school – left at 16 to start an apprenticeship, for a major aeronautical company, and ended up getting qualifications down a different route and money to match (i.e. not getting the debt)

    From that point I then decided it wasn’t for me and applied for a role in SEO and although I have no degree (or even equivalent) had no problem in getting a job because of the lessons I learnt in employment generally, and the positions of responsibility I held despite a totally different role.

    I think, although a degree is of benefit, as long as the enthusiasm to progress in the career field that has been chosen exists as well as the underlying knowledge and personal characteristics that imply they will fit in that role I don’t think there should be a major problem in getting a job.

    It has to be remembered that although people may have a full CV it doesn’t tell the employer about the person as a whole in general and there are many roles that are advertised as preffering a degree which I believe is a bad choice unless it is specifically required as the company will miss out on a lot of good applicants that could be perfect for the job.

  • CL

    I completely agree – the job experience certainly helps, and is equally important. I was very lucky on my degree to use real world projects as part of my course, which allowed me to come out of university with some practical experience as well as the qualification, and that certainly helped on my application for my first job