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Alternatives To University: What Are My Options?

Getting a degree can be extremely beneficial for students, however, it’s important for them to know this isn’t the only pathway available to them after college. In fact, with university in the UK now costing on average £9,250 per year, student debt alongside committing to full-time study for three years are some real concerns students face. With plenty of other routes to consider, it’s important that students weigh up what option is going to suit them best. Here’s some more information about what other avenues are available instead of going to university in the UK.

Higher Apprenticeships

A higher apprenticeship is a great option for students who want to gain practical workplace skills and become qualified in a role that doesn’t require a degree. Most higher degrees mean you'll be working full-time (and getting paid a wage) to gain the practical skills needed for the role, but also carrying out part-time study at a college, university or training provider. Normally they can last anywhere from 1-5 years, with costs fully funded by the government and the employer. Even though a permanent position isn’t guaranteed at the end, government figures state that 90% of apprentices stay on in employment after their apprenticeship, and 71% stay with the same employer.

Higher apprenticeships are offered in many industries such as construction, agriculture, animal care, the arts, publishing, media, business, law, engineering, IT, retail, healthcare and more. For more information on higher apprenticeships, UCAS has lots of information.

Further Education (FE) Courses

If students want to continue with education but are looking to gain a qualification without it costing as much as going to university, many further education courses are free for those under the age of 19.

Here are just some of the FE qualifications available:

A foundation degree is basically two-thirds of a full honour’s degree. Like an apprenticeship, it's a qualification designed to prepare students for a specific area of work by combining academic study and work experience, and they're usually organised by universities in partnership with colleges. Students can move onto full-time employment after graduating, but many choose to 'top up' a foundation degree with a further year of study to turn it into a full honour’s degree.

Alternatively, an HND (Higher National Diploma), is a vocational qualification which is usually studied full-time for two years (or three years part-time) and is preparation for careers in industries such as design, engineering, computer science, business, health and social care, and hospitality.

Entry-Level Jobs

Entry-level jobs are great for students who have left school or college and want to get straight into the working industry. They don’t require formal higher education qualifications, however, some might require certain school grades or work experience, while others will just want to see enthusiasm and a great work ethic. Positions can often be found in a variety of sectors, including accountancy, marketing, teaching assistant positions or IT and are usually full-time. Creating a great CV is the best way to be considered, and working up in the company is an excellent way to kick-start a successful career.

Take A Gap Year

Taking a gap year can be an extremely enriching and transformative experience, especially for students who aren’t sure about going to university or just need some more time to consider their options. In the long run, it will help them make better decisions, grow on a personal level, and surprisingly help reduce the student dropout rate later on. Even though it’s normal for students to worry that taking a gap year might look bad on a CV, as long as they do something productive with their time off, it’s likely to have the opposite effect. In fact, having an awareness of other cultures, language skills, independence and the ability to plan will all impress future employers. Volunteering abroad or teaching English as a foreign language are also excellent choices for students considering taking a year out.

Self-Employment/Setting Up A Small Business

For students who prefer to work independently or are full of creative ideas for making money, then setting up their own small business could be a fulfilling alternative to university or a full-time job. Alternatively, becoming self-employed might suit students who have skills in a specific area such as photography, writing or graphic design. This means they can take on freelance work, which allows for more flexible working hours and the opportunity to build up a portfolio of work. Even though income from self-employment can be irregular and the pressure to succeed can feel difficult, being in charge can be very rewarding and a great path for students who have a real passion to be independent. These articles also have some excellent advice on how to start a business or what it takes to be an entrepreneur.