Whether to attend university is one question that most young people consider as they go through their studies. 

But with the introduction of higher apprenticeship there is an opportunity for gaining qualifications in the workplace too.

Going to university helps you to develop personally and socially; you'll meet new people and develop new skills. As a result, living away from home can help you become more independent and self-sufficient. Some courses give you the opportunity to study overseas or undertake work placements that will broaden your opportunities and understanding of the sector.

The other positive is in your bank balance, on average you will also earn more over your working life with higher qualifications than those who don’t. Evidence shows that on average a graduate earns over £160,000 more than those who leave school with two A levels, and maths and computing graduates can earn over £240,000 more in a lifetime.

If you are unsure you might ask yourself the following questions:

If you have a clear plan and ambitions then you should be able to answer this but if you don’t know then you probably need to do more research. There are some roles where you simply cannot qualify without attending a university such as dentist, nurse, physiotherapist, vet etc.

Again, if you don’t know then you need to do some research, there are quite a few jobs where you cannot fully qualify unless you do higher education. For example, in nursing, you can work as a healthcare assistant or auxiliary nurse in a hospital without a degree; but if you want to be a nurse you must take the degree route. The introduction of Higher Apprenticeships means that it is possible to get a higher qualification whilst working in some sectors. 

This depends on how carefully you choose the course, how well you achieve and the job you get when you finish. Many people worry about being in debt when they leave university but the way in which you pay your student loan back means that you have to be earning a good salary before you start repaying. The payments are phased too, so they go up as your salary does, so you should not feel too burdened by them.

Higher education funding is not the same for all courses, most students have to pay tuition fees to cover the cost of the course. There is funding available for some students in some course areas, including:

  • The NHS providing funding towards courses including nursing, occupational therapy or physiotherapy
  • Scottish students being exempt from fees if they study in Scotland
  • Bursaries available for science or some teaching courses to encourage students to study these subjects

Find out more on our student finance webpage.

Sometimes you can feel like a hamster on a wheel of study, it can be a positive to step off, take a gap year, do some volunteering or get a job which will to give you the chance to reassess your priorities. But if you feel like you are focused and keen to keep going with your studies higher education is the next step.

It is possible to be swept along with the process without thinking about whether it is what you want. Remember, that it is you that will be studying and you who will be expected to do the work. If you’re not certain that it is right for you, you might be more at risk of dropping out.

Higher Education qualifications include:

Level 4
Higher National Certificates (HNC)
Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE)
Level 5
Foundation Degrees (FdD)
Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE)
Higher National Diplomas (HND)
Level 6
Bachelor’s Degrees (BA, BSc, BEd, BEng, etc.)
Level 7
Postgraduate Certificate (PgC)
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)
Master’s Degree (MA, MSc, MEd, MEng, etc.)
Level 8

Some professional qualifications and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules are also offered at Level 4-8

If you feel that higher education is for you, take a look at our choosing a higher education course web page or routes into higher education web page for more information.

If you're not sure that you want to study in higher education, you might find out web pages about applying for a job or apprenticeship.

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