Should my child go to university?

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Sheffield Hallam University

University is the most popular next step for school and college leavers, and with so much attention focused on higher education, it can feel like it’s the only route open to your child.

University is the best choice for many students. But it’s important to understand who it is right for and why, so you can help your child make an informed decision.

'Pros and cons of going to uni for my child - a guide for parents'

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Why go to university?

Newnham University, Birmingham

A university open day can be a good way to

decide whether university is the right choice

There are many good reasons for your child to go to university. But if you think it is an essential step on the path to career success, you’d be wrong. With more apprenticeships and school leaver programmes available than ever before, this simply isn’t true anymore.

Likewise, if your child is drawn to university because “that’s what everybody does”, “because all my friends are going” or because “it looks like fun”, encourage them to think again.

Here are some good reasons to go to university:

1. To gain essential qualifications

If your child needs a degree to follow their chosen career path, they’re on the right track. Jobs such as teacher, lawyer and doctor generally require you to have a degree, so university is the logical choice for you.

If they haven’t already, your child should investigate what kind of degree they need to enter that profession.

They should also look at whether they can gain a degree without going to university, through a higher or degree apprenticeship. That way, they can work towards a university degree while getting paid a salary and gaining work experience. This option is available for some professions, such as solicitor and software engineer.

2. To pursue their interests through further study

Some people go on to university because they're passionate about a certain subject and want to know everything there is to know about it. A love of learning is one of the best reasons to go to university.

This doesn’t mean they can’t plan for their career as well. Other ways to give themselves a career boost including volunteering, doing a summer internship or another kind of work experience placement.

Shouldn’t every student go to uni?

No. University isn’t for every student, and students do not need to feel that university is the only route to a high-skilled career.

For some students, an apprenticeship is better because it is more practical, allowing them to earn and gain work experience.

For others who want to study an academic qualification full time within an academic setting, or experience some of the other things university can offer, university may be the better option.

Pros and cons of university

Student halls of residence

Living in student halls will give your child a

taste of independence

Pros:

  1. Students can become experts in the subject they love – through 3+ years of intense, focused study.
  2. University can prepare you for a specific career path – although many higher/degree apprenticeships now offer training for graduate careers.
  3. Graduates earn more – but they can graduate with a higher/degree apprenticeship and earn while they study.
  4. Uni gives students time to gain work experience – during the long summer vacations.
  5. Students get a taste of independence – by living away from home in student halls or rented accommodation.
  6. Students gain high-level transferable skills – such as analysis, critical thinking, communication and problem-solving.
  7. It can broaden the mind – by exposing students to new people, ideas and places.

Cons:

  1. Students may not gain technical skills – many courses are theoretical instead of practical.
  2. Students may not get employability skills – although they can gain these on work experience during the vacations.
  3. Contact time is less than at school – with more of a focus on independent, self-driven study.
  4. Students graduate with a lot of debt – 2018 graduates left university with £36,000 of debt on average.
  5. Students commit 3+ years of their life – so your child should consider whether three more years of education is for them.
  6. Students are not guaranteed a graduate job – many graduates end up in temporary or entry-level jobs not graduate roles.
  7. Lifetime earnings can be higher with an apprenticeship – those with a level 5+ apprenticeship typically earn more than traditional university graduates.

Take a look at our university section aimed at students for more advice.

Images: Lead image by Geograph, Newnham University and Wolverhampton University via Wikimedia Commons

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