NEWS
16/08/2018 00:01 BST

'I Learn More In A Day At Work Than A Month At College' – Why Young People Are Rejecting University

New poll reveals fewer students believe higher education is the only route to success.

PA Wire/PA Images

More young people are rejecting university in favour of heading straight into the world of work, a new poll has revealed.

The rising cost of tuition fees, being able to save for a home and leaving behind exam stress were among the reasons cited by students planning their future careers without a degree, according to social mobility charity the Sutton Trust.

Its research showed high school pupils are increasingly less likely to see university as vital to their success, with the number of 11 to 16-year-olds who view university as essential falling steadily over the last six years.

While 75 percent said they thought it was important to go to university, a poll by the trust found that figure was down from 78 percent last year and a high of 86 percent in 2013 – a fall of 11 percent overall. More than three in four (77 percent) of the 2,300 young people surveyed also said they are likely to go into higher education. 

But HuffPost UK has heard from a string of teens who chose work or technical education instead of a degree.  

Jasmine Joynt, a 17-year-old sales and service advisor for Co-op Insurance, took the decision not to pursue university study to save for a house, despite getting good grades at school. 

“I didn’t want to continue in the rigid structure of the education system because I wanted a real challenge and a different experience,” she said. 

“Had I have gone to university, and spent another five years in education, I would only be learning specific skills in one chosen field, and after that I might have struggled with meeting employers’ expectations if I studied for a degree in, say, history.”

Jasmine Joynt
Jasmine Joynt, who is 17 and completing an apprenticeship with Co-op Insurance, said she was worried about the cost of university.

She added: “I also think that going to university would build up debts and could actually hinder my future choices, such as being able to buy a house. I feel that, by doing an apprenticeship, I can earn my own money, not rely on my family and start saving now.”

Katie Harvey, also 17, is an electrician apprentice at Darke and Taylor in West Oxfordshire, and said housing costs also played a role in her decision not to go to university. 

“Making my own money has allowed me to save and contribute to my family home,” she said. “This means that when I do end up moving out, I won’t have to face the massive shock of paying bills.” 

Katie Harvey is an apprentice electrician who at 17 is saving for a home
Katie Harvey is an apprentice electrician who, at 17, is already saving for a home.

It comes as sixth-formers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results and learn if they have gained a university place. 

Josh Tapper, 20, from north London, gave up his slot as one of the stars of the Channel 4 show Gogglebox to take up a communications apprenticeship in the government’s Cabinet Office. He now works on the campaigns team for the Prime Minister. 

He told HuffPost UK: “The expectation from my parents and my school was that I would always go on to study for a degree. It wasn’t until I failed to get into my chosen university that I began to question whether university itself was the best next step for me.” 

Josh
Josh Tapper used to be a star of Channel 4's Gogglebox.

He added: “We have been brought up to believe that university is the best option for every young person. But I believe that this perception needs to change. Both routes should be considered as equal to one another, both providing suitable ways of pursuing a future career.”

Seventeen-year-old Gabby Long is a civil and structural engineer apprentice for WSP in Manchester and said she has more confidence in her skills than her peers in education. 

She added: “Choosing an apprenticeship was, for me, about gaining industry experience at a young age, and experiencing and doing something different to my peers. 

“Just one year into my apprenticeship at WSP, I already get to visit sites, attend client meetings and work on large projects such as Net Power and HS2. I learn more in a day at work than I do at college in a month.” 

Gabby Long is a civil and structural engineer apprentice for WSP in Manchester and says her confidence is soaring
Gabby Long is a civil and structural engineer apprentice for WSP in Manchester and says her confidence is soaring.

The Sutton Trust poll also found poorer pupils – those eligible for free school meals – are less likely to say they are planning to go to university than their richer classmates (67 percent compared with 79 percent). 

More than a third (35 percent) said they feel they are not clever enough, while the same proportion said it was not needed for their job plans.

Girls are more likely to say they expect to study for a degree than boys (81 percent compared with 73 percent), the poll found.

Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age. And in a number of cases they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs. Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust

Of the young people who said they they are unlikely to go into higher education, the most common reason was that they do not like the idea or do not enjoy learning and studying (58 percent), followed by finance (44 percent).

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, called for the government to step up its programme to deliver more degree apprenticeships.

He said: “It’s no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people who think it’s important to go into higher education.

“Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age. And in a number of cases they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.

“On the other hand, degree-level apprenticeships are almost non-existent, with less than 10,000 available each year compared with over 300,000 university places. There is effectively no viable alternative to university.”

The Ipsos Mori poll questioned 2,381 schoolchildren aged 11-16 in schools in England and Wales, between February 5 and May 25.

A Department for Education spokesman said “university isn’t for everyone” and the government does not want one route to a career “to be considered better than any other”.

“That is why we are transforming technical education in this country to put it on a par with our amazing academic system,” he added.