Jack Averty: Why going to university isn’t always the right thing for teens
Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, delivery drivers turning up late and nosey neighbours – three of life’s constants.
Just imagine a world where an Arsene Wenger-less Arsenal celebrated finishing fourth in the league, that pizza delivery guy arrived early, and the neighbours minded their own business. Almost unthinkable.
There’s a fourth constant though – and we got to witness it in all its glory this week.
No doubt we’ve all seen 18-year-olds jumping in the air with a brown envelope on A-level results day on Thursday.
Leaping 3ft off the ground grasping that little beacon of hope has almost become a rite of passage for college-leavers across the country.
Ketchup in your bacon butty, fish with chips, tea and biscuits . . . jumping for joy with your A-level results – it’s one of life’s perfect pairings.
Along with the jumping for joy craze, there’s an understandable hysteria around results day. These brown envelopes – whether you agree with the system or not – contain the results that’ll help shape every teen’s future.
Further education or straight into work, these grades will define that life path.
What is difficult to understand, however, is why there’s such a desperation to attend university.
Students are left heart-broken if they don’t get into their university of choice and that’s not right.
Why has it been drummed into students that higher education has to be the next step? What are its merits?
Everyone will have a different tale to tell, but here’s the most common one. Speaking from experience, my modern history and politics degree, which was occasionally worked hard for, is practically useless now. What use is modern history and politics in today’s working world? Personally there was never any intention to go into politics, and there was certainly never intention to do anything with history.
In fact, becoming a journalist was something I looked into before my university journey started; the far more useful choice for teenage Jack would have been to do a dedicated journalism training course, get a job on a newspaper, then sail off into life’s sunset.
‘But’, the university chancellors cried, ‘what you have learnt at our over-priced establishments can be applied in your writing’. Well, take a most recent article I wrote in which I claimed the Second World War started in 1940 . . .still, thousands of pounds to be one year off isn’t too bad, eh?
The same goes for so many other degrees, which are completely irrelevant to the working world. Most students are coerced into attending university.
Many feel pressured into going so they pick a subject they enjoyed at school – English or perhaps a science.
But how many of these people put these degrees to good use? How many friends or colleagues do you know who actually used that media studies degree to get into the job they’re in, or have become a scientist after three years studying chemistry?
Of course, it’s unfair to ask what university actually offers because the answer to that is clear – an eye-watering amount of debt; latest research suggests that most graduates will leave with about £50,000 of debt.
You get to attend classes for three years, learning lots of near-useless information and have the pleasure of paying tens of thousands of pounds for the privilege. It really is one of the country’s biggest cons.
Other avenues should be encouraged for students after their GCSE years as the start to think properly about the future.
There are specialist courses out there, ones that – in some cases – only last a few months and focus solely on a particular job or skill and get you professionally geared and ready for it.
There are also apprenticeships, where you can join a company and train while getting paid.
Why aren’t there there lessons about these options instead of hours spent teaching students how to perfect a UCAS application?
Another option, of course, is going to university later in life. It’s not a race, going to university straight away is not the be all and end all.
If, after working in a job for some years, it transpires that a degree would be helpful or is required in order to progress, then you can always enrol as a mature student – getting exactly the same experience, help and qualifications but at a time when your career aspirations are far clearer. University is presented as a life path that must be joined as soon as the opportunity is available. It’s rubbish.
University does have its merits, like anything. The life experience gained from moving away from mum and dad for the first time and having to live on your own – learning how to fend for yourself and survive as an actual human – is invaluable. The best lessons in life are self-taught and that could not be more apt when it comes to cooking, cleaning and paying bills – and you may not necessarily get that experience by getting a job straight out of school.
Universities can also offer degrees that are essential for certain career paths. Medicine, for example, for aspiring doctors or PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) for those wanting to lead the Conservative party one day.
The point is university is a valuable resource and an incredible opportunity to some – but not all.
Going to university is not the be all and end all of life.