Are there too many undergrads?


Back in 1997 when the Labour party came to power their message was clear; Education, education, education. With this in mind the government set the target that 50% of people under 30 should be in some form of higher education by 2007. But after the recent scramble for university places which has left thousands of applicants without a university place isn’t it time we began thinking about the value of going to university rather than just seeing it as the next step in life?

This year saw applications for university places increase yet again to a record breaking 660,000. Many though have been left in the dark having to rely on the stomach churning clearing process to gain a place in higher education. After dealing with the initial disappointment of not getting into their chosen university, students are forced to make split second decisions. Unable to think straight, individuals know that if they don’t make a decision quickly then they, rather than embarking student life, may have to spend another year at home.

In this frame of mind many clearing students are finding themselves at less desirable universities and without accommodation because they are so desperate to leave home. Students are sacrificing the quality and location of an academic institution for the impulsive desire of being swept up in the whirlwind of drinking, partying and the freedom that comes with university life.

Is this really what university is about? Young people should go to university to better themselves or because they want to continue their education, not to spend three years getting smashed.

There needs to be more options. University should not be the only option thrust upon students who have worked hard to gain A Levels or diplomas. While more vocational options are being explored by the government and future employers not enough of this initiative is being translated back to students.

For so many people university is not the right place. Not everyone fits into the same neat little box. Individuals are individual and need to be treated thus.

Even so young people are under pressure from their family or school to move onto university, or they simply don’t know what their next step should be. They are directed into the umbrella of higher education as a beacon that will lead them into a successful career.

From my experiences in sixth form if you were planning on going to university then great. Teachers would look over your personal statements, trips would be arranged to various different universities and finance evenings were put on for your parents.

However, for those who were choosing other routes the school was useless. I saw friends who were planning to do art foundation courses struggle to compile their portfolio and prepare for interviews without any support. Options of entrepreneurship, learning on the jobs and going travelling were never discussed.

It is not always recognised that for some learning alongside full time work is a quicker and more financially viable option. University is a long term investment, but in the tough economic climate having one foot on the ladder by working your way up through a company can be just as beneficial.

With the surge in applications and an increasing number of undergraduates degrees are becoming undervalued. They are seen as common currency rather than the prestigious documents they once were.

Ex-polytechnics who offer courses in Knitwear or Wine Studies seem to be giving out degrees where in the past such studies would be considered under a more vocational branch. Should we not return to the system where degrees are awarded for academic achievements only and regain their value, rather than been seen as something that everyone can achieve?

Degrees are meant to make you stand out and be noticed, not become part of the collective.The idea of 50% of under 30s going to into higher education seems absurd.

Is there a point in having a qualification that is achievable by so many that it no longer stands out? A degree should work for you in the same way that you work for your degree. It should not leave thousands of graduates unemployed.

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