Why do a degree?

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 09 Jan 2020

A bit of help for all school leavers asking themselves: Why do a degree?


Although there are famously high costs attached to taking a degree – tuition fees are rising and grants to low-income students are being scrapped – there is obviously a reason why more people than ever want to attend university.

First of all, the employment (and salary) prospects on graduation are impressive. The latest Office of National Statistics report comparing graduates to non-graduates found that: 

- Graduates were more likely to be employed than those who left education with qualifications of a lower standard

- Non-graduates aged 21-30 have consistently higher unemployment rates than all other groups

- Non-graduates aged 21-30 have much higher inactivity rates than recent graduates.

Research has shown that graduate starting salaries at the UK’s leading graduate employers is, on average, a whopping £29,000. A quarter of top graduate programmes will pay new recruits more than £35,000 when they start work and ten organisations are offering at least £40,000 to this year’s graduates. Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone, there are plenty of people with degrees earning far less than this, but by definition, these graduate programmes are positions only available to university graduates.

Some specific professions are only available to graduates, meaning that if that’s what you want to pursue, university might be the only viable option – if you want to be a doctor for example.

This might at first seem like a barrier to those from lower-income backgrounds, when you take into account the recent rise in tuition fees, but it’s worth looking at the realities of cost and student loans properly before making a decision about a degree. Student debt, even though it can be large, does not affect the borrower’s credit rating, as student loans are not included on credit reference files.

Any outstanding student debt is written off after 30 years, even if nothing has been paid back during that time (because the borrower wasn’t working or was earning below £21,000).

In fact, studies have estimated that over 70% of graduates won’t have paid their full loan back after 30 years. 



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