University is an opportunity of a lifetime. Or at least that’s what parents and teachers tell you. Throughout my last couple of years at school there was an almost unrelenting pressure to commit to three years more education; three years more graft – all for the promise of a graduate job at the end of it. I resisted and I’m glad I did.
I decided to do an apprenticeship instead. One of the main reasons I turned my back on university is because I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I didn’t see further education as the be-all and end-all of having a career; you only have to look at the likes of Richard Branson, Piers Morgan or Jamie Oliver to know that.
The social aspect of university is appealing to many; as is the independence moving away from home provides – both of which help explain the year-on-year rise in university applications (up four per cent in the past year).
But at the end of your three years, what do you get? A piece of paper that certifies you’re talented in your area of expertise; a heavily embossed certificate that comes at a hefty price - up to £27,000 in fees from some universities plus a few thousand more in student loans.
Well, I didn’t want thousands of pounds of debt hanging over me when I was supposed to be enjoying my youth. And I certainly didn’t want that debt if I’m trying to save money to buy a house, pay into a pension and have children.
As for the promise of gainful employment? Looking at my friends who have since graduated, many did so with the expectation that a job would be there waiting for them. One year on and they’re still chasing unpaid internships and work experience - as, presumably, would I.
Certainly, when I was offered an apprenticeship with The Independent and Evening Standard, I was convinced that I was getting an education as well as a full-time job in the industry I wanted - and I strongly believe I’ve learnt twice the amount from my colleagues than I would have done at university.
To me, university isn’t doing enough for students, and it would appear that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, agrees as he recently said that “too many young people aren’t getting what they need”.
What young people thrive on is a combination of education and work - not one and then the other. And with apprenticeships, the opportunities are endless. Over 150,000 employers offer apprenticeships in the UK and, even after finishing, 85 per cent of apprentices will stay in employment, with two-thirds of those staying with the same employer, giving you a sense of job security and, of course, no student debt.
Three years on, it’s impossible to say whether I made the wrong choice in not going to university, and I know my decision might come back to haunt me. But, for now, I have no regrets at all.Reuse content