This morning the Department for Education shared a tweet on how it ‘pays to have a degree’; graduates are more likely to be in work and are, on average, earning £10,000 more than their non-graduate pals. A good day for graduates, then.

I am not a graduate. Had I not chickened out in the eleventh hour (sorry Mum) and everything had gone well, I’d be handing my dissertation in right about now.

Instead of university, I did an apprenticeship. For as long as I can remember, I have been against university. Everyone I knew had done a degree with very little relevance to what they were doing post-uni. It caused a shocking amount of debt (I am scared of all debt to be fair). I was forming my strong opinions during the financial crash: the labour market was competitive, and everyone had a degree but no “edge” or experience.

I would have been the first in my family to go to uni, and that strangely would have really meant something to me. I would have been moving to my favourite city, and studying the only subject that kept me from never going back to Sixth Form.

But I would also have been buying myself three more years of thinking time (will I ever know what I want to be when I grown up?). My head of Sixth Form said, when I asked what I could do with my degree, that there would always be teaching. I couldn’t think of anything worse (kids are gross, schools give me panic attacks).

So I got my apprenticeship. I started as my pals were starting their first term of uni, and did that for 15 months. I was kept on, and have been promoted twice in the 14 months.

According to the stats released by the Department for Education, the median graduate salary was £34,000 in 2018. Humble brag but I’m exceeding it, without the debt and fancy piece of paper/pointy hat/cape.

We’re getting to the point now – I hate this narrative. Things have changed massively in the last few years, and a lot of that has been down to great campaigns. I’m not suggesting we don’t acknowledge the numbers, but I am annoyed that we still regard university as the only way to succeed.

There are so many reasons why the old formula for success might not work. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness as I would have been starting my first term, and I’m almost certain my brain is not compatible with formal learning environments.

I stand by my decision and recommend to everyone preparing to leave school to consider the alternatives. I’m seven years younger than my flatmate (an Oxford graduate, with a masters…) and we are at the same level at work, and earning the same – another humble brag for you.

University might pay, but you can’t put a price on your happiness, sanity and well being.

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