There is a common divide between the ‘student’ and those who left school and worked at 16,17, and 18 yet I am still unsure as to why this really is. A notorious fan of The Apprentice, it was no surprise for me to hear that Lord Alan Sugar left school with minimal qualifications and is still one of the most successful leading businessmen of this century. With university applicants constantly rising as much as the fees for next academic year, are we really setting ourselves apart from others by receiving a degree, and what about those who left school and went straight into work? Is it in fact time to bridge the gap between the two?
You only need to go back 30 years or so, and the education system was incredibly diverse to what is established to date. For those who were fortunate enough to attend Oxbridge, according to my father it was not as tough to gain a place as it currently is. Why is this? Not necessarily because people are significantly ‘brighter’ these days but that so many courses are oversubscribed. Yet what is the fuss surrounding ‘university’ all about? Is attending university essential to doing ‘well’ in life and becoming a success? One, it depends on how you define the previous classifications but in my opinion, no you do not need to attend university to do well. Being a student is not the be all and end all…unless your vocation is to become a lecturer or teacher of further education.
On a personal level I have a gaggle of friends who are in full time education at university. However I do also have friends who are not. Are they both happy and human beings? Yes. Do they regret their decisions? No. The line between going to university and going into full time employment leans on one thing…the want to learn. Don’t believe all the ‘students do nothing but party nonsense.’ If you came to see the people queuing to get IN to the library the past few weeks, it would refute this ideal. I see it like this; if you want to spend a minimum of three years in potentially a new place then there has to be more keeping you there than 90p drinks.
University has been the best few years of my life, however, at only 20 to be fair that is not a massive feat. They say you meet your friends for life at university, and I know for a fact my experience has lived up to this. Not by merely bonding over a few too many, or trolley racing around a 9-bedroom house in second year (NB this definitely happened) but by learning how to do your own washing (was incredibly humorous the first week), going to lectures, attempting to find seats in the library and finding that ever favourite coffee retreat, or, pub.
University life has equipped me with a range of skills, yet they are more life skills rather than what I have learnt from my degree. Studying English for three years has taught me how to construct a half decent essay, communicate verbally in sometimes awkwardly silent tutorials, and more importantly how to speed read 3 monster books per week. Whilst this seems a little half hearted, with the fees rising next year it begs the question of what the future students will get for their annual £9000+. All universities vary, but the experience is second to none. However this is also evident in full time jobs, with a range of potential bonuses, promotions, and having a fixed salary instead of a student loan, yet university is a catalyst for enjoying your youth if you’re fresh out of school, or back after a few years of work or travel, or even if you’re a mature student.
What I have gained from University personally is a few more years of learning. I know I am not blessed with manual skills such as DIY, constructing things, or using logic and applying it to anything practical. University has enabled me to continue with my love of poetry and writing, and I am certain that this is true for other subjects and other students. I guess the problems arise when leaving university, something that in the next few weeks will come true, and that for three years living the high life will come to conclude with a bump, with tired eyes waking at 6am instead of pm, whilst those who have trained their body clocks through work will be laughing.
I will walk away with more lessons than just how to write quickly and legibly in an exam, and indeed with (hopefully) lasting friendships. Getting a job straight away would not have suited my personality, but it does not mean it is detrimental to any young person who thinks university is not for them…it is not for everyone and I think the attitudes toward university student versus full time employment needs to be completely readdressed and considered.