Completing University is widely regarded as the pinnacle of academic achievement. Obtaining a degree in a subject area that you are passionate about can be one of the toughest, yet most rewarding experiences a young person can encounter, and with the number of degrees available, and the number of higher educational institutions across the world rising annually, students are now able to find their optimal University experience that will allow them to pursue their desired career – but, is it all it’s cracked up to be?
This short article will briefly examine how University has been perceived throughout the 20th century, chart how our perception of higher education has developed moving into the 21st century, and consider whether University should remain a desirable extension in students’ academic careers with the growing number of opportunities that are now available for those who chose not to go to University.
University in the Past
The end of the Second World War brought about an unprecedented level of change for higher education institutions. The University of Oxford witnessed ‘rapid expansion beyond the University’s traditional strongholds in the humanities’ in the post-War period, with the founding of a Business school representing an endeavour that was once considered ‘too philistine for a great University’.
The more traditional University fields of philosophy, the classics, and botany, all experienced a relative decline in the same period, suggesting that a newly curated social consciousness that manifested itself following the Second World War began to erode the aristocratic reputation that Universities had cultivated in their earlier years.
Essentially, University had become generally more accessible for people from different social backgrounds, making it an incredibly desirable and achievable career path for post-War students.
On top of this, between 1962 and 1990 in the United Kingdom, higher education was effectively free. This meant that students were able to attain a higher certificate of education, without arriving into the job market with thousands of pounds of debt.
In the modern day however, the decision students face over whether to go to University is far less simple.
University in the Modern Day
The most glaring obstacle potential University-goers must now face are the colossal tuition fees they are forced to pay to study their course. United Kingdom and European Union students are now required to pay £9,250, approximately 183,844 Turkish Lira, per year, on top of the maintenance loan they require for rent and living, that they will inevitably have to pay back in instalments.
With the constantly shifting job market, some students may also find it difficult to pursue their desired career path with the degree that they hold after graduating; for example, degrees like engineering and medicine usually have jobs available for students immediately after graduating, as their skills are incredibly desirable in the modern job market, whereas humanities students may find it slightly more difficult to slip into a career that is directly inspired by their degree course.
The lingering debts accrued over the course of a University education, and the sometimes uncertain job prospects after leaving University, the decision as to whether to pursue higher education has certainly become more difficult.
The Role of Social Media
The rising popularity of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have only served to complicate this decision further or, at least, make it more difficult for students, or young people who have chosen not to pursue higher education, to feel comfortable with the decision they have made.
University students, for example, may see a number of young people who have elected to forego higher education and head straight out into the working world reaping the rewards that a full-time income would bring; they may have bought their first car, may be looking to buy their first home, or may simply be moving up in their occupational hierarchy.
On the other hand, working individuals may feel envious of students living the typical student life, going out and partying with friends regularly, joining sports societies, and developing their understanding of a subject area that they are passionate about.
What it is important to remember is that social media platforms and users regularly flaunt the positive aspects of their chosen career path. There will likely be a number of exciting positives and a few negatives for either side.
This decision can be a crucial one in the life of any young person tussling with the option of going to University or pursuing a career outside of higher academic education. Discussing this decision with family and friends, learning and outlining what exactly you want to pursue in later life, and working out exactly how University may or may not help you to achieve this goal, are all important steps in coming to an agreeable solution. And whichever option you go for, remember that it was a decision that was right for you!
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- Frank, David John, Gabler, Jay, Reconstructing the University: Worldwide Shifts in Academia in the 20th Century (California, 2006) https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jpBgR0nFbgUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=university+in+the+20th+century&ots=53i23oPB0N&sig=-wdyhlGm9DtutaUOhMCK9QMPwdc&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false