Is University The Best Route for Your Children?

Starting a family, parents are often overwhelmed with the desire to make sure their children have access to all the opportunities that maybe they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up. This is such a natural urge - to create a life that is hopefully better.

So anyone who has sat and tried to instil the discipline of homework and study in their children knows that it is a stress-inducing battle.

Qualifications do not equate to professional success
While university may be the best route, there is plenty of evidence that many of the most successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common - that they actually did averagely well at school and didn’t go on to further education. Lord Sugar, Simon Cowell, Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg - their skills were nothing to do with the education they received, but rather a passion and driving force that propelled them to pursue success that was beyond the reach of anything they could learn at university.

Higher education is not a cheap option, and for many the disparity between the debt that accompanies their graduation hangs around their necks like a millstone, and is not necessarily a guarantee of high wages. Indeed, for many that finally leave academia in their mid twenties, they enter a workforce which may only be offering below average starting salaries.

Qualifications as a prerequisite
There are some professions which need degree level qualifications as a matter of course. If you are looking to enter the world of law or medicine, then working your way through the layers of academic qualification is a prerequisite to reaching the higher echelons of that profession. At the same time, many professions require evidence of commitment, discipline and understanding, particularly if the health and safety of the general population are involved.

You certainly would not want to be operated on by someone who had flunked school at the age of 16. You’d need your airline pilot to demonstrate a degree of intelligence and rational thinking and your architect to understand the role engineering steel plays in the infrastructure of a multi-storey building.

There are many other disciplines and professions, however, that would be better approached by learning ‘on the job’ rather than in the classroom.

Many media, technology, accountancy and creative disciplines combine an academic approach with apprenticeships, allowing school leavers to learn while they earn. The power of this approach not only gives them several years’ worth of experience in the working world over and above their university bound friends, but it also gives them highly sought after professional qualifications that can not be achieved in standard universities.

Moreover, many apprenticeship led qualifications start with attractive salaries - especially if you are an 18 year old fresh out of school and still living with your parents. This means that by the time your contemporaries have been through the university system and accumulated £50,000 plus worth of debt, you may have been able to work your way up to a very healthy salary for someone in their mid-twenties and be further along the path to buying your own property and moving into high management positions.

The downside of not going to university is possibly the lifestyle, freedom and ‘rite of passage’ that university can give young people. For many it is the first time they have lived away from home, and represents three or four years during which time they have the social and intellectual freedom to explore who they are, and what they want from the world. And this is equally acceptable.

Ultimately, every child is an individual who has the right to follow the path that feels right for them - as parents, our best course of action is to support and nurture along the way.

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