Claire Granados, Principal at Quest Professional – a business college focused on equipping A-level and university leavers with the business acumen, employability and interview skills required to fast-track aspiring students into the world of work – discusses whether university is the right option due to the rising drop-out rates.
Official figures released earlier this year by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that the number of university students who left their courses before completing their degree has risen for the third consecutive year. The latest available figures show that in 2015, 26,000 students or 6.4% of the total number of university starters dropped out before starting their second year.
While there are numerous reasons students may choose to leave their degrees, it is my belief that one of the key factors in the high number of student dropouts is the myth that university is the only route to success – leading to many school leavers’ attending university simply as a matter of course. While higher education can be hugely valuable for those seeking to enter certain professions, simply applying for university due to a perceived lack of options leads to many young people studying for degrees who would be far better suited to alternative options.
When considering whether or not university is the right option there are a number of questions that young people should consider. Firstly, their motivation for attending. Are they going because they’re enthusiastic about the course or is it the social element of university which appeals? Are they simply following the crowd? It is also useful to think about the end goal. This doesn’t mean hand picking a future job, but having some idea about the career or sectors which are of interest to them. Having considered all these points is university really is the best or only way to break into this career?
If the answer to this question is no, it’s important to stop and review other options. Apprenticeships for example enable young people to learn on the job and begin earning straight away. There are some outstanding schemes available with a wide range of companies, the disadvantages are that apprentices may only gain skills applicable for one sector and can be obligated to work for the company who runs the apprenticeship for a set period of time.
If young people are unsure about what they want to do, taking a gap year could be a good option. During this year, the opportunity to do some soul-searching shouldn’t be underestimated – travelling or going on holiday can be a great opportunity for development – but gaining some practical work experience is also useful. During the course of the year they may decide further study is right for them or that fast-tracking into the working world is the best option.
If they do decide that three years of further study isn’t for them acquiring the practical and soft skills needed to succeed is a must. Attending a business college such as Quest Professional can help prospective employees gain the skills most value by employers, such as time-management, leadership, public speaking and IT skills. By mastering these skills and entering the workplace two or three years ahead of their peers, school leavers can gain the edge and end up being held in higher regard than those with a degree when climbing the career ladder.