Home > Savings > Is university worth it?

Is university worth it?

With tuition fees costing £9,000 a year and the rise of living independently increasing, is it worth the financial cost of getting a degree?

Why do people go to university?

Even with the high costs, there are still plenty of reasons to study for a degree.

Higher lifetime earnings

In general, graduates still earn more than non-graduates. In 2022, working-age graduates earned an average salary of £36,000, which is £10,000 more than 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 higher qualification.

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 and a good reason to leave home. It gives you the chance to be independent but with limited responsibilities. For many, it’s the best time of their life.

How much debt will I graduate with?

For individuals starting university in 2023, the government predicts on average they will graduate with £43,500 in debt.

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.

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

So is university worth the cost?

It depends what you want to get out of it.

If you already have an idea of the type of work you want to do, it's worth researching what qualifications you need.

For some careers, you need a degree in a certain subject to be able to get your first job.

But other careers might prefer you to have a degree but actually on-the-job experience is seen as just as valuable it might therefore make more financial sense to look at internships or junior positions. In the same amount of time it would take you to get a degree, you could have climbed several rungs on the career ladder.

That said, university is still the most established route to higher earnings. A degree is a ticket to a galaxy of opportunities – whether you take them or not. And it could be 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.

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

Saving for university

If you'd like to put some money aside for university, our Stocks and Shares ISA could be a good place to start. You can choose to put your money in either of two funds – one riskier than the other – and invest up to £20,000 a year without paying tax on any money you make.

Find out about our Stocks and Shares ISA

Our Stocks and Shares ISA invests in the stock market. While this gives it good potential to grow, there is a risk that the value of your money could go down.

Liked this article? You may also be interested in...

7 student budget hacks for saving money at university

Eating nothing but cold beans for the last two weeks of term is a university rite of passage. But if you don’t want to do it more than once, you will need to learn how to make your money go further.

Read more

Is it better to save or invest your money?

Money that’s saved grows by earning interest, whereas money invested increases (or decreases) depending on the value of stock market shares.

Read more

Top 5 money management tips for teens

Learning to budget and make your money grow from a young age can help you build the financial future you want.

Read more

What are the best places to live and work in the UK?

Our research into the best places to live in the UK could help you start thinking about which university you'd like to go to.

Read more