Over the past few decades, attending university has become a more realistic and accessible opportunity for a much broader range of people. Disparities in wealth, gender, social class, ethnicity, etc. are now much less likely to determine whether or not one chooses to pursue further education. For example, the least advantaged young people in England are now 65 per cent more likely to attend college or university compared to 10 years previously.
As a result, an increasing number of people are choosing to pursue an education beyond their basic qualifications. We saw record numbers of people applying for entry to college or university courses in 2015, with 40 per cent of young British people receiving and accepting offers. A new trend has emerged; transitioning straight from school into university has increasingly become normal, whereas entering straight into the workforce is now considered more unusual.
Looking at today’s job market, this new trend isn’t very surprising. Searching for a job without a degree will immediately limit your choice by half. On top of this, many university graduates are struggling to find jobs in their degree subject so end up filling non-graduate positions. As a young person attempting to enter the workforce with only basic qualifications, this must be daunting. When degrees are now considered almost commonplace, your chances of landing a good job without one seem slim. Therefore, it’s no wonder that so many are choosing to go to university before pursuing professional careers.
With this in mind, students tend to face a lot of pressure to perform well and, thus, get accepted into university. For most people, high school education was entirely focused on achieving good grades and creating a strong university application. Speaking from personal experience, the acquisition of a strong skillset, for which education was intended, has always been secondary.
Staying on at school after aged 16, it’s assumed that you plan to continue on to university. My school provided plenty of resources for entering into Higher Education, including application workshops and visits to institutions. However, for entering directly into the workforce, there was very little in the way of guidance.
Along with this is the pressure to follow the same path as your peers. With everyone in your social group making plans to go to university, it becomes very difficult to pursue a different goal. This is yet another thing that might deter young people from taking an alternative route and entering straight into the workforce.
All things considered, it’s clear why so many people are now choosing to pursue higher education. Faced with so many socioeconomic, academic and peer pressures, it seems to many people to be the only option.
Therefore, it seems that going to university may have become more about conforming to social pressures and expectations rather than actually pursuing academic learning.
Image credit: Paul Stainthorp