Our Best Interests

By Dayna Spear, October 04, 2017

Before I really get started in this very blunt and honest post about why university isn't the best route for our youth: don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to say that nobody should go to university! I’m very aware that many degrees will offer different experiences and learning to what I had. I’m simply going to tell you my experiences with it, and why I personally think that apprenticeships may just be the new way forward.

I was always under the impression that uni was a given if you wanted to do most jobs. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, so a Journalism degree was the obvious option, right? Very wrong, actually.

I was never informed of any apprenticeships in my field of interest.

Going through school and college, the focus was always ‘UCAS, UCAS, UCAS!’ And, maybe, just maybe, some more UCAS.

It seems that anyone I’ve spoken to had a similar experience - a poll we ran on twitter with 32 people told us that 91% did NOT believe that their school or college gave them enough information on other options to university.

It was only until I spoke to an actual journalist, that I learnt I could gain a journalism qualification within 3 months and apply for jobs straight after, or even get an apprenticeship with a paper, magazine or news outlet. Why wouldn’t I have been informed of this significantly quicker and cheaper option?

Anyway, this time last year I was off to university in London to study English and Journalism and I couldn’t wait. Usually I’d be absolutely dreading September as it meant returning to GCSE’s or A-Levels, but I was genuinely so excited to start learning at uni-standard.

I’d previously had work experience with my local newspaper and loved every minute of it. I had many articles published myself which I was really proud of and it just made me want to do more.

Unfortunately, after 1 week of work experience, I’d learnt significantly more than I did after 1 year of university (and £9,000+ in debt, I might add.)

Let me explain what I think is wrong with the university system… prepare yourself for a ginormous ramble.

The focus on money at university really made me think about how much they care for the individual. Forget the ludicrous £9,000 a year fee and accommodation costs – uni will constantly offer extra things such as language classes which were around the £200 mark, and don’t even get me started on the textbooks.

Within my first week of lectures I was advised to buy two textbooks – they basically made it seem like I would fail the course, and everything within life itself if I didn’t purchase these £25 a piece books.

I soon came to realise that the authors of these textbooks were actually my lecturers themselves. Thank Goodness for that.

Guess how many times I needed to use the books? Twice. Bloody twice. That money could have bought me 25 boxes of chocolate fingers instead. Priorities.

My next point: don’t get me wrong, holidays are great. Everyone needs time off to relax, but is 5 weeks seriously necessary for a Christmas/Easter break?! No, it’s definitely not, and nobody needs that amount of time off from doing 10-12 hours of lessons a week. To be honest, it makes me wonder what people are forking out thousands of pounds for.

Don’t you think the idea of being hands-on and busy, whilst earning an income, is far more attractive?

All in all, it seems that only around 5 months of the year are generally spent in lessons.

After a pretty easy term last year, I’d realised I had a ‘Reading Week’ coming up (basically a half-term holiday.) The purpose of a reading week, of course, to ‘catch up’ on your work. This is easier said than done when you’ve been given about 1 hour of work to do.

I wouldn’t exactly say I was occupied. To be honest, I would have happily done extra work rather than twiddling my thumbs and watching more ’10 Craziest Motorbike Stunts’ on Youtube.

For the amount you’re paying, I’d expect so much more.

Now, for someone who likes to be challenged, kept busy and not swimming in debt, this just didn’t appeal to me. This is when I started to think about apprenticeship opportunities.

I remember leaving my first ever lecture feeling slightly dismayed, as I hadn’t enjoyed it much (if you can’t tell.)

After my 1st year at university complete, I am questioning whether universities have the students’ best interests at heart.

I know at Further My Future, we seriously are interested in helping young people succeed in a pathway that is just right for them.

This post is not to say every uni, every lecturer and every course will be like mine was. That is not my aim here at all, and I completely understand that there are so many important jobs (such as psychiatry or medicine) that require degrees; I’m not disputing that one bit! I’m curious; have any of you had the same experiences that I did?

What people don’t know is that many jobs in teaching, science and many medical professions are becoming available via apprenticeships, rather than university.

What I personally don’t appreciate is the arising attitude that every young person should go to university, because it really isn’t for everyone. You’d be surprised to hear about the wide range of careers you can follow with apprenticeships, instead.

Not academic? You’ll probably be advised to do a sporty or an arty degree, but the truth is you’ll still be drowning in essays, assignments and reading which you didn’t bargain for.

I really believe the university system needs to change; the extortionate fees and low teaching standards aren’t good enough. Let me know your thoughts on what I’ve said – I’m genuinely really interested. I know not everyone will make the decision that I did to leave, even if they’re having the same thoughts I did. I think that’s because they may not be aware of their other options - do you need help to leave university and get set on a new path? Let me know.

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