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Is university worth it?

Now that tuition can set you back as much as £9,000 per year the question has to be asked: is university worth it?

Why do people go to university?

Even when the cost is so high, there are still plenty of reasons to study for a degree.

Higher lifetime earnings

In general, graduates still earn more than non-graduates. In 2019 working-age graduates earned an average salary of £34,000, compared to £25,000 for non-graduates.

Higher employment rate

A smaller, but related benefit, is that the unemployment rate for graduates tends to be lower than for non-graduates.

This may have as much to do with the kind of person that goes to university as it does the degree itself, but all else being equal, employers will often favour the candidate with the better education.

The experience

It’s something of a cliché, but in the UK at least, university has long been about more than just improving your job prospects. It’s seen as a stepping-stone into adulthood. The chance to be independent with limited responsibilities. For many, it’s the best time of their life.

What about student debt?

The average student is expected to graduate with over £50,000 of student debt, more for poorer students.

Although that number looks alarming, it’s important to look at how that debt is structured. When tuition fees were increased, the pill was sweetened with easier repayment terms for student loans.

Payments are never more than you could reasonably afford. The debt doesn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to take out a mortgage. Anything you haven’t paid after 30 years gets written off.

Either your degree rockets you into the highest earners, or you don’t pay. The sums are big, but the risk is low.

However, many students need more than the student loan allows. If your family can’t support you while you study, it’s worth educating yourself on what grants and bursaries you might be entitled to, and considering a part-time job.

And approach the free overdrafts banks offer with caution. They can be helpful while you study, but they don’t take long to attract fees once you graduate.

Is university worth it?

It depends what you want to get out of it. It remains the most established route to higher earnings. A degree is still the ticket to a galaxy of opportunities – whether you take them or not. And it’s the only chance you’ll likely get in life to immerse yourself in intellectual pursuit.

The debt is high, but the way it’s structured means it shouldn’t put you off. Either you get the expected financial boost or you simply don’t pay.

The real question is whether it’s the right choice for you. You might be better suited to an apprenticeship, vocational training or simply getting on with a job. And that’s a question only you can answer.

To help you make that decision, visit UCAS for more information on your options.

Having a financial safety net can help you make the most of the opportunities available to you.

Rows of university students at a graduation ceremony

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