The announcement by the Coalition government in 2011 to raise the upper limit of university tuition fees to 9,000 a year has brought the value of university into sharp focus.
I saw the outrage explode all over Facebook and other social networking sites; many students feeling cheated and betrayed by the new government. Several people I knew at university went up to London to take part in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest but that ended negatively for all those involved.
Prospective students entering university with the new tuition fees in place will now face a difficult dilemma, as they decide whether the benefits of university outweigh the cost.
As much as I loved university, if I was going to pay £9,000 a year for tuition fees it would me make me think carefully about how necessary a degree was for my chosen career.
Don’t get me wrong, university has its good points. The lifestyle is a lot of fun (imagine one big party), you meet all kinds of people, some of which will become lifelong friends, and become a more confident, independent person.
My course was both challenging and stimulating and I was incredibly happy to receive a 2:1.
University also teaches you some valuable life lessons. For most, it is their first time living away from home, standing on their own two feet.
However, the thought that new graduates are likely to leave university with a debt of around 50,000 is a sobering one.
The debt isn’t the main problem though. The current employment situation for graduates is.
Until recently, a degree was guaranteed to boost your employability, improving both career and salary prospects. In a report from the 1994 Group of universities, 80% of those who graduated before the recession were in graduate – level jobs within three and a half years of leaving university.
Millions are finding themselves left out in the cold as they struggle to gain employment in a job market saturated with graduates and still recovering from the effects of an economic recession.
Many graduates, me included, have been forced back home, unable to afford their own lodgings. A report released by the Office of National Statistics in winter 2009 revealed that more young adults in their mid twenties and early thirties were living with their parents in 2008 than was the case in 1988.
Graduates do typically have higher employment rates than non- graduates. In the final quarter of 2011, 86% of all graduates were in work compared to 72.3% of non- graduates.
It seems that in the future, hands –on training will be just as vital as academic training.
Employers are placing more and more emphasis on work experience as a way of sifting the most promising candidates from the rest.
In the industry I want to go into, journalism, most employers won’t even look at you unless you can show that you’ve used your skills in a practical environment like the newsroom.
Many students also feel that work experience counts for more than academic qualifications. Jessica Delanghe, a student at the West of England university in Bristol, said: “ in this economy it is more important to have experience in the relative field than to say you have spent 3-4 years preparing for it through university.”
Universities are now starting to offer employability schemes, in an attempt to blend the student experience with the skills required for work.
One example is the University of Surrey’s Global Graduate Award scheme, which provides free foreign language lessons to undergraduates, whatever their course.
It is clear that in the current economic climate simply having a degree is not enough. In order to beat the recession, students are going to have to spend more time improving their employability and carrying out work experience placements. This, rather than any formal qualifications, is likely to be the key to success.
What do you think – is a university degree worth the debt? Have your say below.