Despite Tuition Increases, UK University Degree Continues to Pay Off

Although tuition has risen dramatically in the United Kingdom, a universit degree still has many advantages, from a higher salary compared to non-graduates to better professional networking, according to Glynis Kozma of The Independent.

Explaining the advantages of a degree, Kozma writes that graduate earnings have exceeded those of non-graduates for years and continue to do so. In 2010, starting salaries of graduates were £6,184 higher — great news for students and parents who pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.

The appeal of a university degree is rooted in more than just better career opportunities. For the majority of students, studying at university involves living away from home. Most first year students live in halls of residence, and in the next year they move to independent living. Living at university gives students the opportunity to grow into discipline and responsibility by managing their studies, sports and finance.

Most importantly, writes Kozma, is that at university one learns to live with other people. Students get the valuable experience of living with harmoniously alongside other people, some of whom are very different and others who present problems: “Dealing with dripping taps, elusive landlords, flatmates who won’t do their share of the housework or who are noisy requires diplomacy and negotiating skills”.

These skills are important for personal development and are crucial in future personal and employment relationships, and which can teach students more about themselves than the degree can.

Rebecca, a language graduate from the University of Bristol, said that “the friendships you make are invaluable. Going to a new city allows you a fresh start. You can change a lot during these years and the friends you make at university reflect the person you have grown into.” Polly, who completed a degree in architecture, agrees: “You meet people different to those you have grown up with, and have to work constructively with them. You have the chance to be more independent than you have probably ever been, and experience living somewhere very different to home.”

Universities have hundreds of clubs and societies where students can develop or learn new skills. Most universities have excellent sports facilities. Tom, a graduate, explained: “It’s possible to try new sports very cheaply. This makes it easier for students to participate in sports they might otherwise not be able to afford to try.”

Professor Tom Ward, pro-vice-chancellor of Durham University (Education) said: “Universities can provide a safe space in which to nurture unexpected talents. Many people have huge potential that is not obvious to anyone, including themselves. There are a huge number of opportunities enabling students to leave with a wider set of skills than they had on entry. This can include leadership and organisational abilities as well as networking, and post-graduation there is an active alumni society.”

And university contacts can help students get a job in a competitive market. In the United Kingdom, the University of Newcastle even has a dedicated team of business advisers, business support staff and entrepreneurs-in-residence who can offer one-to-one advice for those students and graduates wanting to set-up and run their own business.

“The university helps students find graduate apprenticeships and relevant work experience, while offering extra- curricular activities that enhance students’ CVs and provide the skills employers value.”