From education to employment


Person holding a black folder
  • Three quarters of school leavers believe a university degree is a must to secure a good job
  • More than half (57%) of pupils have changed course or university due to cost of living crisis, 12% say degree is “unaffordable” 
  • This year marks 25 years since the introduction of student loans, with the average loan repayment set to reach £43k 

Three quarters of school leavers believe securing a university degree is the only way to get a good job, according to research from global hiring platform Indeed.

University student numbers have risen to record levels in recent years and the study shows an overwhelming belief that a degree leads to a better career and higher salary. Nearly two thirds of respondents (60%) said university is either “essential” or “important” to their chosen career while more than half (52%) said it would improve their earning potential. 

However with the level of graduate jobs below their pre-pandemic watermark and the cost of living adding pressures to personal finances, many students are re-considering the value of a degree. More than 57% of respondents said they have either changed course or desired university due to the cost of living crisis with one in eight (12%) saying a degree is simply “unaffordable”. 

Cost-of-living crisis

The reassessment by many 18 year-olds comes on the 25th anniversary of student loans being introduced and as the average loan repayment climbed to £42,900. The financial toll appears to be weighing on this year’s cohort of students: 31% of A-Level and BTEC students who receive their results today don’t believe that a degree is worth the cost.

38% said it’s impacted where they decided to apply, for example looking at universities in cheaper parts of the country. 16% of those who don’t plan to go said the cost of the student loan repayment was a significant reason for their decision.

Indeed’s research also polled UK workers most (85%) of whom said university helped their career. However, when asked whether it was worth the cost of the student loan, only 23% agreed. 

7% of respondents said they thought their degree was a “rip-off” and that there aren’t enough jobs available for the course they studied, reflecting the recent plan by the Government to crackdown on under-delivering degrees

‘Zombie’ applicants

However, the research suggests the search for better work isn’t the only reason students are applying. While 30% think going to university will get them a better salary, a quarter (26%) applied because their parents encouraged them to, and 16% never considered not going to university, suggesting a zombie-approach to applying rather than a conscious decision about how university will help them get better work. 

Danny Stacy, Senior Manager, Talent Intelligence at Indeed, said:

“As hundreds of thousands of students receive their A-Level and BTEC results today, it’s clear from our research that a majority of them view university as the best path to a successful career. However, in the face of rising costs in society we also see signs that many students are also thinking twice about when, where and what they study as well as the value of a degree.

“While many jobs do and perhaps always will require a degree, we know many prosperous careers can be started straight out of school with starting salaries in entry level jobs being as high as £30,000 for some sales roles or £50,000 for those able to write software code. 

“We’ve also seen a 30% rise in interest in apprenticeships over the past four years suggesting that despite record numbers of UCAS applications, young people are increasingly looking to begin their journey to better work through hands-on experience.

“So while university is right for many it’s by no means the best option for all and my advice for those receiving their results today is to consider their destination and plot the best route to getting there.”

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