Gransnet forums


university, debt and an abundance of graduates

(69 Posts)
petunia Thu 13-Aug-20 13:00:49

I read this morning that in spite of the shambles of the A level results, more young people were going to university than previous years. Probably, to some extent, due to the expected reduction students from overseas. This has caused universities to accept more home grown students. Also the lack of apprentice ships and vocational training available to school leavers almost force young people, by default, into university. in On one hand this sounds fantastic news. But on the other hand should we be persuading our young to go down this route.

With many graduates chasing an ever decreasing pool of graduate type jobs, are we selling them an unrealistic dream. Particular this year where new students may find face to face tuition with a tutor very limited and fees will leave most in horrendous debt.
I can hardly believe Ive just said that. But I wonder, if my children were 18 now, whether I would be encouraging them down that road.

Doodledog Thu 13-Aug-20 13:20:31

The debt that graduates have is not debt in the sense of a mortgage or loan, in that it is written off after a time, and is only paid when they earn over a certain amount. The amount they borrow is irrelevant, therefore.

As for the increased pool of graduates, this only matters if you think that the 'point' of an education is to put graduates into an elite group who can pick and choose jobs. If you believe in a meritocratic system, it wouldn't matter if 100% of young people had the advantage of a University education, as the best jobs would go to the best candidates.

When I was a student, fewer than 10% of people had a degree, and the number from less well-off backgrounds was significantly lower than that. Having a degree did mean that a lot more doors were opened, and graduates were much more likely to be in management roles. Great for them, of course, but the flip side was that 90% of people (and more than that for working class people) were automatically denied those chances, or had to begin the long slog through day release or evening classes whilst working and often bringing up a family.

A lot of the complaints about the devaluing of degrees (and yes, they are not a guarantee of status in the way they once were) comes from a hankering after those days.

Personally, I would rather we had a system that encouraged equality of opportunity, and gave everyone a chance to have a fulfilling career, rather than one that by definition denied that opportunity to the vast majority.

Aepgirl Fri 14-Aug-20 09:59:08

When will youngsters be told that a university degree doesn’t guarantee a job?

James Cahn (ex-Dragons’Den) was on TV yesterday, saying that he would rather employ a youngster who shows initiative and willingness to learn, that somebody with a degree in some obscure subject.

GladysP2 Fri 14-Aug-20 10:08:58

More jobs now require a degree. Like nursing, you can’t progress in nursing easily without the degree.
And the ‘horrendous‘ debt should be seen a tax once they start to earn over £26,575 a year. It’s not too bad - only £3 a month on a salary of 27k a year.
My children are 18 and 21 and both wanted to go to uni, as you said there’s not many alternatives, apprenticeships are highly competitive and not available in many specialties. Finding a job at 18 will be equally hard post covid. If they aspire to go to uni and develop academically and emotionally then this can only be a good thing.

Keeper1 Fri 14-Aug-20 10:14:15

One of the engineers where I work said degrees now are not like they used to be it is possible to get a poor third just for turning up. He is only 30 and already disillusioned.

Jess20 Fri 14-Aug-20 10:23:04

Having left school at 16 and been through the long slog of evening classes etc, ending up with a whole bunch of qualifications and a senior lecturer post at a decent uni, I'm actually quite in favour of this slower route. It allows the young person to find out how education is useful in the real world and, back then before education was commodified, didn't leave you quite as saddled with debt. In fact, quite a bit of my education was funded by my employers or grants and bursaries. However, right now those sorts of career paths don't seem to be as possible as they were. There seem to be far fewer opportunities for young people and the feeling of being saddled with all that debt (even if it isn't like a normal debt/loan) right through ones childbearing years, must be horrible.

cfmp Fri 14-Aug-20 10:25:23

I don't agree that students' loans are not real debts. It is true that you don't start repaying what has been borrowed until you earn a certain amount, but the interests still accumulate and you need to declare students' loans when you apply for a mortgage. These debts should be regarded very seriously. I agree far too many young people are going to university and will unfortunately never get a better job than if they had gone to work straight from school.

jaylucy Fri 14-Aug-20 10:46:06

My ex boss used to like taking on new staff that had a degree - even though it was not connected with the job and they would probably leave after 6 months when they got their "proper job".
He did it, he said, because he believed that if they had completed a university course, it meant that they were capable of committment.
Going to uni is not all about the actual degree - it is also about the social aspect and a chance to move out of their immediate social zone.
My son decided not to go to uni because of the possible debt, so had a full time job but then decided to go to do an HND course as a mature student at 25 , for which he still had a loan to pay for the course, so is in debt anyway !

Bijou Fri 14-Aug-20 11:53:28

When I left school in 1939 at the age of sixteen very few people went to University. I went school of commerce and languages for a year and was able to get good secretarial jobs. My daughter leaving school at eighteen saidshe didn’t want to go and thought a lot went because they didn’t know what they wanted to do. She got a good job with the overseas department of a major bank. My son left school at the age of sixteen with few GCEs . Started to work with an international IT company and ended up as Marketing Director retiring at the age of 57 a fairly wealthy man. He then got his Master degree via the Open University.

quizqueen Fri 14-Aug-20 11:58:51

University degree courses should be whittled down to only those which are likely to produce a job at the end and be beneficial to society. Other courses could be taken for enjoyment only.

jocork Fri 14-Aug-20 12:06:40

I was lucky to be a student back in the days of grants when you could leave with a degree and without debt if you were careful with your spending. Both my children went to university and have the associated debt but it really isn't as big a deal as some think. My daughter has a good job and is gradually paying hers back. My son went on to do a PhD and as his place involved some university teaching was fully funded. Although he didn't have to pay back his loan during his PhD he started to pay some of it back anyway.

The thing to remember about getting a university education is that it is not just about the degree you get but the overall experience. You gain your independence, meet lots of new people from many walks of life, and hopefully become a much more rounded individual.

It is true that a degree does not guarantee a job, especially at the present time when the country is in recession. I feel for the new graduates this year who are finding it particularly hard. My son works in academia and I'm relieved he obtained his next job just before lockdown. He's waiting to start that job in October at a German University and is currently between jobs, his previous one ending at the end of June at an English University. Even having a PhD is no guarantee of future job security, but for him the challenge of academic research drives him and I'm sure he'll continue to work in his field even if he doesn't have a paid position. He's supported himself through private tutoring in the past so hopefully he'll be OK in the future too.

I would always encourage a young person to go to university if they are capable. It will give them a completely new outlook on life.

westendgirl Fri 14-Aug-20 12:13:39

Quiz queen , your comment reminds me of my mother saying that she had been asked why she was letting me go to university when I would get married eventually and have children !
That was in the back end of the 50's.

Doodledog Fri 14-Aug-20 12:16:40


University degree courses should be whittled down to only those which are likely to produce a job at the end and be beneficial to society. Other courses could be taken for enjoyment only.

I think you are confusing education with training, quizqueen.

nahsma Fri 14-Aug-20 13:28:50

Quizqueen could you let us know what is “beneficial” to society? Latin, Ancient History, Fine Art, Music? Or just the Gradgrind stuff?

Sheba Fri 14-Aug-20 14:05:36

DH never went to uni but was very affected by that in his career.
Despite being very able and experienced there were many jobs that he was excluded from applying for, often given to people far less able but who had a degree. DS very bright but not wanting to go to uni, luckily secured a degree apprenticeship in Engineering, perfect solution but not everyone so fortunate, I thank God having seen how lack of degree impacted his DF and in my own workplace how those with degrees were valued more highly than others who were more able.

Littlesuisei Fri 14-Aug-20 16:10:32

Petunia - I have pretty strong opinions on this actually. When I was young and grants existed, I went off to study classical violin at the RNCM in today's world, that would probably have been a very expensive mistake!
Now my son. He went to Cardiff University in 2011 to study physics and astronomy, he came out with a First, then got a place at Imperial College London to do his PhD in physics research. He has obviously, accumulated a whole lot of student debt. The thing is that he's gone on to secure a really good job in Big Tech, which is a more lucrative way to utilise a physics degree and PhD. So, for anyone with aspirations to do something like this, I would always say go for it.
I really do not think you can put a price on an education experience like his imo?
I do feel, though, that some degree subjects would still land you with the same amount of debt, but possibly be totally useless for getting a job. Sadly I think we've passed the days where further education could be viewed as an expansion of the mind or an opportunity to broaden your horizons.
The idealistic view of going to university is possibly going to put off the inevitable - looking for a job. It's so sad I feel, because I believe the world of culture and music has no priority in this new modern life we live in. So in answer to the OP's question, I think it very much depends on what subject and which University you will be studying at. I know that over time, my son will be in a minority of ex students who have a realistic prospect of actually paying back his uni debt. I feel that maybe some parents should encourage their children's expectations? There is so much at stake these days and maybe some students would be better off leaving school and looking for work, as opposed to going off to uni.

Littlesuisei Fri 14-Aug-20 16:13:27

Sorry I meant to say that parents should possibly encourage their children to manage their expectations, based on what is realistic. Sad I know.

aonk Fri 14-Aug-20 16:19:57

I went to university a long time ago ( obviously) and I’ve never been unhappier. It was definitely not right for me and led to problems afterwards as well. I coped with the work but every other aspect of student life was a punishment for me. Young people need to be prepared for the fact that it may not be their ideal path and shouldn’t feel any shame in dropping out. I stayed for 3 miserable years worrying about what people would say if I left.

Ilovecheese Fri 14-Aug-20 16:22:27

"James Cahn (ex-Dragons’Den) was on TV yesterday, saying that he would rather employ a youngster who shows initiative and willingness to learn, that somebody with a degree in some obscure subject."

This doesn't make sense, how does taking a degree equate to not being willing to learn, surely it is the opposite.

Doodledog Fri 14-Aug-20 16:29:53

But the fact that most students will never pay off their debt means that it is not like other debts. It is paid back over a very long time, so it is nothing like a bank loan.

IMO, it would be a shame if people only went to University to bet training for a job. That is the role of Further Education colleges - Universities provide Higher Education which is about learning to think critically, to carry out research and to read around the subject being studied, as well as having the experience of being a student, and growing up without parental supervision.

Yes, there are more graduates now, and maybe fewer 'graduate jobs', but as I said in my earlier post, I don't see that as a bad thing - the job market will always adapt to the profile of the candidates available. In the days when fewer people had degrees it was inevitable that unsuitable people would get management jobs, as the pool of graduates from which employers could choose was much smaller.

A better educated workforce can only be good for the country as a whole, as well as for the individuals concerned. How much pleasure and satisfaction have you gained from playing your violin, for example? Would you really deny that to the next generation in case their study didn't lead directly to a job?

Doodledog Fri 14-Aug-20 16:31:05

Sorry - my message was to Littlesuisei. I need to type faster!

Ilovecheese Fri 14-Aug-20 16:36:11

Totally agree with you Doodledog

Ilovecheese Fri 14-Aug-20 16:36:39

I mean your post, not that you need to type faster!

varian Fri 14-Aug-20 16:37:46

When I left school there were only four universities in Scotland. St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen had all been founded in the fifteenth century and Edinburgh in the sixteenth century. I believe only around 3% of school-leavers went to university and many went to their local university and did not leave home.

Although we did not pay fees and had grants based on parents incomes, going away from home would have been quite expensive. Most courses, especially those in science or medicine, involved long hours, making part-time jobs hard to fit in. If you had gone to a bank and said "I'm a student - can I please have a loan?" they would have laughed at you and shown you the door.

Now there are fifteen universities in Scotland and the ancient universities have undergone huge expansion. In spite of the fact that Scottish students are not charged tuition fees, I imagine that most students do have loans.

Oopsminty Fri 14-Aug-20 16:39:02

Martin Lewis is constantly trying to get people to appreciate that young people are not leaving University with a 'massive debt'.

This explains it far better than I could