Go Higher: Getting a degree is fun

The point of going to university is to enjoy the learning process, writes Tamsin Smith
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The Independent Online
On the face of it higher education is about studying for a degree or HND. It is about reaching that point when you can don a black gown trimmed with your university colours, accept a rolled up parchment of paper wrapped in ribbon with your name on it, and pose for pictures throwing your mortarboard into the air when you graduate.

But there is more to it than that. It is a time of your life you chose to spend, hopefully in an institution of your choice, studying a subject that interests you in depth.

It is about studying with young people from all walks of life, with vast differences in outlook, but who are all there for the same purpose and to share in the same experience.

It is about being in a relatively safe and stimulating environment which has a great infrastructure of support and where young people have time to grow up and develop their personalities and be independent before having to take on the world.

"It is about becoming confident and having the best time in your life," says Clare Wright, 22, a psychology graduate from the University of Stirling.

"It's not all about sleeping in until lunch time and drinking all night. It's about getting the chance to make friends with people from all over the country and the world."

"It is a stepping stone to a better place" says careers information adviser Allison Farrell, from Sussex Careers Services, "and is definitely worth doing.

"Graduate unemployment is lower than any other section of the employment market, and graduates command a higher starting salary than any other sector," she says.

"You also develop a good set of friends for life and get the experience of living in an entirely new part of the country.

"Students moving away from home have to learn how to stand on their own two feet, and mix with other people."

With over 250 universities or colleges offering over 42,000 different courses in cities or campus sites around the UK, there is now more choice than ever.

Anyone can apply regardless of age, background or even academic history as most institutions offer access courses to help those lacking in qualifications.

"At university you will be expected to turn up to lectures and do 5,000- word essays twice or three times a term, but no one tells you off if you miss things."

"Modern university courses are moving away from the lecture/seminar-based teaching methods towards more group-based approaches," says Jacqueline Henshaw, head of undergraduate recruitment and admissions at the University of Manchester.

"This approach tries to encourage independent thinking and critical analysis and to question what people say.

"Students are expected to base their work on their own research. They have to learn how to go about collecting information, how to use the library and computer equipment, how to use reference books and analyse data, all very useful skills later on in life."

The point of university is much more than academic expertise in a particular subject, or the final degree, it about the process not the product.

Studying for an HE qualification is about learning and how to go about it and most employers will tell you they are more concerned with what sort of person you are rather than what grade of qualification you have.

"Although some jobs, such as dentistry, still insist on people having a degree in a certain subject, this is becoming rarer," says Paul Redmond, career development team leader at Liverpool Hope University and editor of What Do Graduates Do?

"Take last year for example. Psychology graduates were four times as likely to enter clerical and secretarial jobs than professional psychology. Research also show there were more psychologists training to be accountants than clinical psychologists."

If you are interested in finding out what graduates go on to do after leaving university and which degrees tend to lead to which jobs, then read, or send off for a copy of this year's What Do Graduates Do?

Published by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service, it contains a comprehensive and accurate survey into the first destinations of all university and college leavers.

It also provides an accurate "snap-shot" of the graduate job scene, giving summaries of the type of work and postgraduate courses entered by students shortly after graduation.

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