I’ve been thinking recently, if I was a fresh-faced 18-year-old just out of college with my whole life ahead of me and pondering what to do next, would I go to university? The answer is probably not!
Before I explain, I must insert a disclaimer here that this does not mean that I don’t recommend anyone else to, neither does it rule out me sending my future kids to university. However, as a university graduate of 2004, the more I think about going to university today, the more I find myself wondering what exactly is the point?
My first issue with this age-old institution is the very modern practice of excessively high university fees.
A tax on knowledge?
As of next year, university tuition fees will be rising to a maximum of £9,000 which doesn’t include living expenses, cost of books, and all the other associated costs of student life – it is no wonder the latest UCAS figures show the biggest fall in university applications in more than 30 years!
How it is justifiable to fine, sorry charge, people whopping amounts to educate themselves is completely beyond me. Surely this is some kind of stealth tax on knowledge? From the parent perspective, I can imagine how massive a financial burden this must be, especially where there is more than one university-ready child in the household. These ludicrous fees may well see the UK go down the same route as China in future by adopting a one child policy to keep things affordable.
Forget uni, try YouTube instead!
The second reason I’m somewhat anti-university for now is that thanks to the internet, the world of learning has opened up in so many different and exciting ways that you can pretty much teach yourself anything you want by simply watching YouTube or scouring the pages of Google.
Unlike the somewhat restricted curriculum of a university module, self-taught subjects can be as varied as you like and as long or short as you like, and the best part is most of these online resources are free or low cost so you can save your university fees for your mortgage down payment instead. Also this way, you get to teach yourself subjects that actually affect your day-to-day life such as how to plan and achieve goals, manage your finances, develop a “winning” mindset and so on…
Branson didn’t go uni…and look where it got him
Entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted but the truth is that it’s becoming more and more of an attractive option for young people who can’t find a job in today’s climate. It makes sense – if some big boss somewhere won’t give you a job, simply create your own!
Richard Branson didn’t go to university and look where it got him; neither did Ingvar Kamprad – the guy who founded IKEA, Simon Cowell who needs no explanation, and countless other entrepreneurs who are today living their own version of “the dream” without first obtaining letters after their name.
And where did your degree get you…?
This is a question many graduates I know struggle to answer because what they do now is so far removed from what they studied at university that apart from the hefty debt they’re still paying back (myself included), there’s not much else to show for the certificate. Once upon a time going to university and getting a degree was mandatory for getting somewhere in life but today we have so much evidence to prove otherwise that it’s almost entirely old-fashioned to make such a statement.
There are of course benefits to going to university, such as the exposure to student life, better access to certain jobs in certain industries, practical skills of writing and submitting dissertations on time, and of course the reduced travel card fare and student discounts to theatres and films, but when you weigh that against the literal cost of going to university in these modern times, it’s only right to ask the question: would YOU go to university today?
UPDATE (11 December 2011): Read the follow-up blog post with views and comments from both sides of the fence
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