Buying your university education is like shopping for a new mobile phone.
As you enter the store and start to browse, you realise just how much choice there is on offer. You begin to wonder: how on earth you will decide between these similar, yet apparently unique, items?
The chirpy sales assistant promises that whichever one you choose, it will be exciting, innovative, fashionable, and ultimately, something you can not live without.
That is, until you take your shiny new purchase out of the box when you arrive home, and sadly realise it’s not exactly what you wanted after all.
You wouldn’t actually miss some of those bells and whistles that were forced down your throat earlier. And the camera features don’t appear to satisfy your penchant for taking photos.
But no worries. You can go back to the shop within 28 days and swap it for something better!
Unfortunately, the process isn’t so simple if you’re unhappy with your higher education, where a survey last week reported that three out of ten students do not believe their degree is worth the money.
While applicants are now confronted with a £9,000 university tuition fee compared to £1,000 six years ago, contact time with lecturers has not increased by the same level, with students only receiving an extra 18 minutes of tuition each week.
The average student now receives only 14 hours of contact time a week, and has a workload of around 30 hours.
So for £9,000 a year, a university degree hardly seems a worthy purchase. However, let’s not forget other costs such as equipment, facilities, support services, student union membership and administration fees are also covered by this large sum.
“But is it still worth it?” I hear you cry.
Anyone considering applying to university this year, and worrying about the heavy burden of debt this incurs, may want to think about the subject they are interested in pursuing and possible career paths that follow.
If you dream of becoming a doctor, lawyer, research scientist, engineer, vet or dentist, then a degree is a necessity. Sorry folks.
However, many jobs in accountancy, IT, media, music, construction, retail and business do not ask for a degree.
If you’re sure your career path will require a degree, but are still terrified by the price tag, it’s best to look to the future. Although you will be spending a significant amount of money over 3 or 4 years, it’s all relative.
Studies have shown that completing a degree in a competitive subject such as dentistry, medicine, law or veterinary science will pretty much guarantee you a job within 6 months of graduating.
As you train further and gain more experience, your annual salary will gradually increase over a lifetime. Doing some simple math will show you just how much the compensation for your original £50-£60,000 investment clocks in at.
And don’t forget - you won’t have to start paying back your loans until you have secured a job, and are earning £21,000 or more. Repayments then begin the April after graduation, at a rate of 9%. If you never earn over this, you never have to repay the loans, and after 30 years the debt is wiped.
Don’t worry if your course fees are £6,000 or £9,000 - repayments will be the same as they depend on your actual earnings.
If it turns out you need a degree in order to pursue your dreams, it’s also important to try and choose the right subject first time round. Unlike a mobile phone, it’s not something you can easily exchange once you’ve bought it.
As well as the wasted time, money and effort of starting at a university only to leave a short while later, think about what will be involved in making the transition to another university and a different course.
You will also have taken up a space that could have gone to another candidate who definitely wanted to do that particular degree.
For those who are (quite rightly) still put off from the traditional university route, take comfort in the fact that there are many jobs that do not require candidates to hold a degree.
While some feel a degree will always validate a job candidate over another, there’s no denying the weight of hands-on experience.
A university education that now carries an approximately £56,000 price tag should also certainly make potential applicants think twice about the usual tired reasons of “I have to go to university because everybody else is” or “because my family are pushing me into it” or “I want to just spend 3 years getting drunk and having a laugh”.
So don’t become dazzled by all your options, or listen to other people telling you what you want.
After all, the question is not “Is your degree really worth it”, but rather “Do I actually need a degree in the first place?”.