Are University Degrees Losing Their Value in the Workplace?

I’m writing this article from a personal perspective as both my sons have attended university.  The eldest, David, graduated with a First in Accountancy and Finance from Cheltenham, and my youngest, Christopher, is in his second year studying Computer Science.

Having chosen not to take up my place at Southampton to study Politics and Law back in 1978 I have not experienced university life personally, but my expectation if I had gone would have been a work hard academically and play hard social environment.

The first difference between then and now was the big question in 1978, would I be able to go? Research shows that in 1950 it was 3% of the eligible population, whereas in 1970 it was 10%, and for 2016 it was 49%!!  So in my day it was the exception not the rule to be offered a place.

Now here’s the really big thing! In 1978 I wouldn’t have paid course fees and I would have got a grant!

From my position both as a parent and also the Managing Director of a successful recruitment company operating in technology today I’ve developed various views and ideas about the value and position of attending university today.

  1. This is now a business driven to make money. From the university’s perspective once you are outside the
    red brick or elite upper echelons’ the feeling of academic excellence is missing.
  1. A lot of people go to university but many don’t know why exactly, apart from to have a good time! This seems to be shown by so many people taking degrees with no connection to what they want to work in.
  1. You don’t get much for your money. In Christopher’s case, the first year’s marks don’t count towards the actual degree – there are only 15 hours of lectures per week, no lecture has less than 100 students (that is not a misprint), yet there is no designated course lecturer with overall responsibility for his progress, and huge amounts of the course is provided online. They seem to show very little interest to your actual progress.
  1. The end cost, say £40,000 of debt, seems poor value and somehow not seen as real money by many students. David has to repay back £288 a month of his take-home pay at present – that will only get higher and will do for some time. He finds that very real money and continually makes it clear it frustrates him. Going to university seems to be like taking on a big car loan. You’re still repaying the loan long after the excitement has gone!

So, to go or not to go, that is the question!  My personal advice would be no, unless you have a clear career path that will be really aided by a degree. The mantra of education, education, education needs to be replaced by employability, employability, employability. In a world where so many people attend university, the value of a degree has been reduced (particularly a 2:2) so don’t take on this additional financial burden unless you know why. It’s far cheaper to travel the world for a year, working your way as you go, for the life skills you would gain and then do what I did, get a job!

11 Huge Companies You Can Apply To Without A Uni Degree by the Glassdoor Team