Is university worth the money?

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1. Taking the next step

A three-year undergraduate course in the UK can cost up to £27,000 in tuition fees, with graduates in England facing the highest debt in the English-speaking world. But is it worth it?

You might feel that unless you are completing a vocational course, it doesn’t make financial sense. After all, there are often other routes to get you into the same career.

But if you believe that going to university is about more than just getting a job, perhaps it is money well spent. Here are a few facts that might help you decide.

2. Let’s talk cash

Click on the map below to see how undergraduate fees in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales compare with average salaries of graduates and apprentices.

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According to a 2015 report by education think-tank Sutton Trust, those who complete Level 5 apprenticeships can earn more over a lifetime than people with degrees from universities outside the elite Russell Group. However, the report also showed that most apprenticeships are currently Level 2 roles and that, over a lifetime, those who take them only earn marginally more overall than people who only have school qualifications. If you’re aged between 16 and 18, the national minimum wage for apprenticeships is £3.30 per hour.

3. Graduates vs non-graduates

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently released its latest stats comparing the labour market for graduate and non-graduates in 2015:

  • Graduate unemployment: 3.1%
  • Non-graduate unemployment: 6.4%
  • Young graduates: 56% in high skill jobs, 31% in medium and low skill jobs
  • Young non-graduates: 17% in high skill jobs, 54% in medium and low skill jobs

The median salary for young graduates was £24,000, that's £6,000 more than for non-graduates. However, the average graduate salary hasn't really increased since 2008. The link below will take you to the BBC's education correspondent's interpretation of these figures.

4. To degree or not to degree?

Tina tracks two individuals who took different routes towards jobs as accountants.

Tina Daheley meets Chris and Fionnuala, both accountants but with different qualifications.

Of course, there’s more than future career or earnings that can influence you when deciding whether to go to uni or not.

5. Choosing the right path

Professor of psychology Adrian Furnham has identified some factors you might want to consider when making your decision. Click on the labels to find out more.

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6. Which is right for me?

So you’ve finished school, but what are the options to help you get on the career ladder?


In 2015, more than 50% of young people in the UK went to uni.

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If you want a career as a doctor, lawyer or academic, a degree is the way to go. Transferable skills and experience might be the key to many other careers.


Combine on-the-job training with study over one to four years.

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Want real world experience? An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to learn from experienced colleagues while gaining a recognised qualification.

School leaver schemes

If you have top grades and want to work and study at the same time.

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School leaver schemes

These schemes combine education with work, paying your tuition fees while also paying you a salary.