In defence of university and generation regret - Hello Ernest blog post

In defence of university and my thoughts on ‘Generation Regret’

Aviva’s ‘Generation Regret‘ report makes for some grim reading.

It claims that more than a third of UK graduates now regret going to university and almost half feel they could have landed their current job without a university degree. It continues brightly; indicating that 72% of millennial graduates are “relying on a one-off event to help them financially” and that Brexit has increased financial worries in 18-35 year olds by 23%.

I could very easily relate to the characters painted by the report, but most of it felt far darker than I consider my own situation. Granted I was lucky to have graduated before the £35k debt era, but even I sometimes question whether my £21k was worth it; not to mention the three years of study without vocational experience for a career.

It’s hard to quantify the impact that a degree has beyond the actual certificate. I was unemployed for almost a year after graduating, so I can certainly relate to the financial side of the worrying. My gut tells me that I got my first job based on attitude and talent – what I can’t know is whether I would have had those attributes had I not been to university…

What I do know is that I am more resilient, open-minded, confident, social, flexible, adaptable and driven as a result. The degree is the key that opens many job applications, but ultimately it’s just a fancy sheet of embossed paper if you can’t back it up at interview with the tenacity that employers expect.

Going to university is expensive, we all know that. But just as Aviva’s report casts another unwelcome shadow over higher education, you don’t have to look far to see conflicting claims (like from Adzuna) that claim graduates earn up to £12,000 per year more than those without a degree. That’s up to £500,000 over a lifetime, which puts even a £35,000 debt into a positive perspective.

Until there’s an analogue for 18 year olds to get that kind of combination of academic and real life experience, I don’t see a better path for those looking to develop professional careers. Higher Apprenticeships and Internships are options, but in my opinion would still broadly fall short during an application when pitched against a Bachelor’s (rightly or wrongly).

A £35,000 investment with a £500,000 return is, for the moment, still a good stock.

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