I speak to hundreds of prospective students and their parents every year. There is one question that keeps cropping up again and again. Is a university education worth the investment of time and money? That’s a discussion I know many families will be having in the run-up to the deadline for university applications that falls on 15 January.
Going to university is not a decision which can ever be taken lightly, particularly if your daughter or son would be the first in the family to enter higher education. Studying for a degree is not right for everyone and it is certainly not the only route to a good job. It might be better to head straight into work, take an apprenticeship, study abroad or come back to studying later in life. After all, education is not just for the young.
As I know from my own children’s experience, being a student demands a commitment to work hard. That’s what every university in the country expects from its students. At the same time, it is absolutely right to give prospective students and their parents a very clear understanding of what university life, and a degree at the end, might offer them in return.
So when you are weighing up all the pros and cons of a university education, consider these facts.
Firstly, higher education is available to everyone with the right qualifications, irrespective of age and background. When I was born in 1959, only 7% of the population attended university. Fortunately though, that elitist approach to university education was not to last much longer.
Last autumn was the 50th anniversary of the Robbins Report which led to the mass expansion of university places ‘…to all who were qualified for them by ability and attainment’. That is now the case today.
Taking a degree means your child can study a subject they love at an advanced level. They will be taught by expert academics, many of whom will be national and international leaders in their field. Their minds will be stretched and they will appreciate learning for its own sake, as well acquiring knowledge and skills for later life.
Students nowadays also have access to a myriad of extra-curricular activities and facilities which open up opportunities to take on new interests and pursuits. And quite aside from making friends for life, your daughter or son will build a network of contacts and friendships which will be invaluable for years to come.
Secondly, graduates earn considerably more than people with A-levels who do not study at a higher level. A degree is still one of the best routes to a good job and a rewarding career.
At a time when employers are demanding higher-skills from the workforce, a university degree is an added advantage. It provides young people with the best chance to compete successfully in their chosen profession – in the UK or abroad.
Thirdly, students don’t need the cash upfront to pay for tuition fees and maintenance loans. They only begin to repay the costs of their higher education after graduating, and are earning over £21,000 a year.
Repayments are linked to what they earn, not what they borrowed. So, if your child’s income falls below £21,000 for any reason, they can stop paying back. After 30 years, if they have not paid back their loan, any outstanding balance will be written off.
Furthermore, there’s financial help available if your daughter or son want to go to university or college. They will be able to apply for a maintenance loan and may also qualify for grants and bursaries. And, particularly for adults looking to update their skills or study flexibly, part-time, they can learn while they earn.
Fourthly, there is plenty of information available when considering a university education. Sources such as UCAS, Unistats, Which? University and The Student Room together paint a very full picture of every course at every university in the country.
For more information on studying at the University of Reading, see http://www.reading.ac.uk. And for more information contact our Student Recruitment Office: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)118 378 7589.