Are universities losing their luster?

Technology | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 14 Jan 2020

A summer 2019 poll conducted by independent research company Ipsos MORI for the UK's Sutton Trust found that only 65 percent of young people up to the age of 16 felt that it was important to go to university. A year ago, that figure was 75 percent, and in 2013 it was as high as 86 percent.

However, two thirds of those interviewed said they were interested in doing apprenticeships after leaving school.

While these results might seem to indicate a decline in enthusiasm for university degrees, the latest poll found no change in the proportion of secondary school pupils expecting to go into higher education: 77 percent said they were very or fairly likely to go to university when they were old enough, with only 40 percent saying they were worried about cost.

Results might indicate a growing awareness of alternative pathways in post-secondary education, or the realization that now, student debt often persists until middle age. Degrees need to be worth the money.

For local students, the desire to delay or even abandon a university education reflects the somewhat precarious state of daily life. All local universities chose to end the semester early in the closing months of 2019. Some may feel unable to focus on studies, some may find their attention being absorbed elsewhere, and some recognized a degree of adaptability is currently necessary. Committing to an expensive four-year course might not be the best way to achieve such an aim.

Findings could also herald an inevitable retraction after unprecedented growth. In 2017, Universities UK stated that the number of 18-year-olds applying for university had reached record levels. In tandem, university intakes at all levels have increased year on year.

In the 2017-18 academic year, the Higher Education Statistics Agency put the total number of students attending UK universities at 2.34 million, including graduate, part-time and international students. This growth has been particularly pronounced in areas like the British north and Midlands. Continual growth in this sector is not sustainable.

Lastly, poll findings might indicate more thoughtful students.

Automatic university attendance is never a good idea.

If you're going to go to a good school to seek opportunities and try and work out what you want to do with your life, all well and good, but be aware that this is what you are doing. Such revelations are equally likely during an apprenticeship, in the workplace or while taking a year out.

Hopefully poll findings also suggest a more autonomous generation who do their research before making life-changing decisions.

If you have any questions about our column, or the issues raised within it, please e-mail them to us:

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