Education is expensive, and many families struggle to put their kids through university, believing it to be the very best start a parent can give their child. For years, going to university and getting a good degree automatically meant a first-class job and living a better life, but is that still the case today?
University fees in the UK have shot up in recent years. The average tuition fee cost for UK and EU students has risen to £9,250 per year. Some degrees, such as medical for example, can be three times that amount, and the average student debt, after living costs are considered, is upwards of £40,000.
The thinking has always been that graduate pay is so much higher than those of non-graduates, that the fees are a worthwhile investment for the future. However, latest figures show that the gap between graduate and non-graduate pay is narrowing and we can no longer rely on graduate jobs being better paid.
Why is this happening? There are several reasons why the pay gap is closing – one of them being the sheer numbers of people graduating these days. Student numbers have almost doubled since 1990. In 1992, the student population in the UK was around 984,000, but by 2016 this had risen to 1.87 million. This equates to around a third of all young people aged between 18 and 24.
The result is the job market is being flooded with graduates. There are studies that suggest a massive gap between graduate skills and the requirements of the labour market. In other words, there is a mismatch of skills and jobs, which some believe is damaging for the UK economy. Figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), show that over half of graduates end up taking non-graduate jobs.
This it seems, is bad for everyone. Bad for graduates struggling to pay back a huge debts, bad for school leavers who are being overlooked for jobs that would have traditionally been theirs, and bad for the economy because students do not have the skills required in the workforce.
So, does this mean it isn’t worth going to university anymore? It looks as though the costs of a university education are, for the first time, not automatically reaping personal economic benefits. This may make many potential students think again before saddling themselves with a lifetime of debt that may be increasingly difficult to pay off.
If you are considering going to university, the general advice appears to be to get some top-quality careers advice before signing on the dotted line. In the past, a university degree was the chance to read, think and explore your options, nowadays, if you want to be sure of a good job that will enable you to repay your debts, choose your course and your subsequent career path very carefully.