University: is it worth it?

Generic UEA, University of East Anglia. Picture: Joakim Boren

Generic UEA, University of East Anglia. Picture: Joakim Boren - Credit: Joakim Boren

EDP journalist Andrew Papworth asks if university is worth all the studying and student debt.

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards - Credit: Archant

In a few weeks, hundreds of bright-eyed students will arrive in Norfolk and Waveney to start at one of area's universities.

Equally, there will be hundreds more young people embarking on apprenticeships or full-time jobs.

Each will be hoping the choice they have made will pay off. So which is right?

Sadly, life isn't that simple and there's no magic answer.

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards - Credit: Archant


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Thirteen years ago I made the decision not to go to university, even though most of my fellow students did.

Why? Because I knew that university life wasn't suited to me - and because I felt job experience would stand me in better stead.

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That's not to say my colleagues today, many of whom did a degree, made the wrong choice. They did what was right for them and their lives are richer for it, just as my life is richer for having spent my formative years in a newsroom.

For some careers, university is a great boost on the career ladder. Indeed, some professions require it. For other careers, I would argue the benefit is less. For example, media degrees often have a poor reputation within the industry - that's not to say all are bad, but often I've talked to graduates who, despite obvious talent, haven't been equipped with the necessary skills.

Andrew Papworth. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

Andrew Papworth. Picture: MATTHEW USHER - Credit: Archant

But it's not all about career benefits. University is a great place for developing important life skills in the relatively safe confines of the university campus.

It is a time when you have focus purely on a subject that you enjoy and find interesting. Not everyone gets the chance to do that.

The cost is a major drawback. I certainly don't agree with the astronomical level of today's tuition fees - but students don't have to pay anything until they earn over £21,000 and only pay more when they earn more. It at least means those who aren't fortunate enough to earn highly pay back less in the long run.

A job or apprenticeship may not land you in debt but you are immediately thrown into a world of greater responsibility.

University is often made to seem like the pinnacle for young people. But other routes are just as valid and can be just as fruitful.

The best tip for young people setting out on life today is by all means listen to advice from your family, friends and tutors, but remember that only you can decide what is best for you.

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