Do you really need to go to university?

This Wednesday saw the release of the Select Committee’s Report on Career Guidance which “examines the impact of the new duty on schools to provide independent and impartial careers guidance for young people”. The Education Committee Chair Graham Stuart MP says “We want face-to-face guidance to be available to all young people as an integral part of a good quality careers service. They deserve and should receive far better support than current arrangements generally allow.”

Schools will now have responsibility for providing that guidance to help school leavers make potentially life changing decisions as they prepare to move on from school. One of the most critical choices must be the decision to go to university or go straight into paid employment.  With the rising cost of university education and the uncertain employment prospects faced by many university graduates it’s no surprise that school leavers are beginning to question the value of attending university at all.

In fact a significant number of very able school leavers are now opting out of university altogether and several employers have introduced school leaver programmes specifically designed to tap the candidate pool for bright school leavers who, for whatever reason, don’t want to follow the traditional university route. Under the banner “Be the first of your friends to make it to the boardroom” Deloitte runs a five year scheme called BrightStart for school leavers which provides full support to gain professional qualifications along the way. PricewaterhouseCoopers also offers a “higher apprenticeship” for school leavers who wish to join PwC straight from school.

If you are still set on going to university but are concerned about the cost and the potential for long term debt then you might want to consider the increasing number of degrees sponsored by some of the UK’s leading employers. Back at PwC these are called “Flying Start” placements and enable students to ease the cost of going to university by participating in paid work placements during the four year “partnership degree programme” and then graduate with a degree, a professional qualification and the strong possibility that they will also be able to secure a permanent job.

If missing out on university seems a little drastic but you don’t want to be tied to one employer another smart choice might be to take a job straight from school and sign up for an Open University Degree. This option could leave you well ahead of your friends on full-time university courses, gaining work experience and earning money but also having the opportunity to get qualified and get a degree. Depending on your earnings that Open University degree might cost you significantly less than a full time university course (currently around £2,500 a year for a part-time degree) with finance still available from Student Finance England.

With so many important decisions to be made it’s good news that the coalition is now placing greater emphasis on helping students to make the right choices at a critical time in their lives.

About Jeremy I'Anson

Jeremy I'Anson is the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. Jeremy provides one-to-one career coaching to job hunters at every level from graduate to CEO. Jeremy writes career related articles for the national press including Computer Weekly and The Guardian. He is the official Career Coach at the Daily Telegraph. View all posts by Jeremy I'Anson

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