Alternatives to University

  • Last updated 10 Jun 2019


University isn’t the only option. If you don’t fancy throwing yourself to the mercy of the job market, there are some other options that will allow you to gain valuable on-the-job experience and work towards a qualification at the same time.

Your parents and teachers might be pushing university, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to explore other options, particularly if you are daunted about the cost of higher education.

Higher & Degree Apprenticeships

You may think that doing an apprenticeship won't get you to the same level academically as a degree. To dispel this myth, we present to you the higher apprenticeship. 

To be eligible for one, you must have either completed an advanced apprenticeship, have at least two A-levels or equivalent.

These apprenticeships are designed to give you a higher level of training than your standard apprenticeship and are found in industries such as business, engineering and IT.

Even better, as well as vocational qualifications, some higher apprenticeships give you the chance to work towards a higher qualification, such as a foundation degree, HND, or undergraduate degree.

There are some higher apprenticeships which will give you a master’s degree level qualification

Examples of the big-name employers who offer higher apprenticeships: Balfour Beatty, EY, Virgin Media, Pinsent Masons and GSK

School Leaver Programmes

Another option similar to a higher apprenticeship is the school leaver programme

Very similar to higher apprenticeships (and sometimes incorporating a higher apprenticeship as part of the scheme), school leaver programmes are marketed as the alternative to university for high-achieving, ambitious students.

Popular in sectors like finance and accountancy, these programmes aim to attract good A-level students who don’t fancy the high cost of university or want to leap straight into a career.

Competition for places is fierce and entry requirements can be high; although some only require applicants to have two A-levels.

These programmes might combine work experience with intensive training and the chance to gain a professional qualification (e.g. in accountancy) or an undergraduate degree. That’s right! You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice a university education.

Degrees or professional qualifications are usually built into the programme and employers will often cover or contribute to the cost of completing the qualification. That means no tuition fees, or cheaper tuition fees at the very least.

Examples of big-name employers who offer school leaver programmes: PwC, RSM, RAF, Womble Bond Dickinson and Smith and Williamson. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to do your reseach and suss out which is the best option for you. Following the traditional route of going to university might fit in better with your career plans or the alternative routes might be just the ticket.

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