There's more to life than university



Newspapers at the end of last week were filled with pictures of teenagers jumping in the air. A-Level results day is the one day of the year where Britain's youth throws caution to the wind, remove the shackles of an emotionally repressed British childhood and allow photographers to convince them that such photos won't haunt them in future. This year's news reports seem dominated by images of students "scrambling" for clearing places, having narrowly missed out on the grades required for their firm and insurance offers.

Most, if not all stories heighten the drama by continually referring to the looming prospect of next years (up to) £9,000 tuition fees. Surely the last thing nervous students need is the continual insistence that this year is the last year that the "average" student can afford to go to university.

The effects of the media and student union's false representation of the Browne Review still remain, and may just be the reason why many students accept places that they are not entirely happy with or have little interest in pursuing. Rather than piling the pressure on those who narrowly missed out on places this year, we should be extolling the virtues of the large range of options available to them.

Students opting to take a year out to either re-think their options or to re-take exams are not burdening themselves with "mortage-style debts", but sensibly saving themselves from rushing into a university course that will take nearly £3,500 of their money each year whilst potentially offering them little personal value in return. It must also be remembered that university isn't the only route open to college-leavers: a range of apprenticeships, training schemes and alternative qualifications are available. And, of course, there's always the option of going straight to work.

The positive outcomes of the increase in tuition fees have been, thus far, hidden from those applying to university. Such increases give students greater powers and larger choice, forcing universities to provide courses that are better value for money. And the fact that students are now considering whether university is a good finical decision for them should be seen as positive. Fees are paid back after graduation according to the amount the student is earning. If a university degree will afford them greater earning potential then the increased tuition fees can certainly be justified. If this isn't the case then there are plenty of other options.

The media's advice to those who've missed out of university places should have been along different lines. Taking time to properly assess whether university is the best choice for your future should always be the advice given by teachers and the media. Hopefully, the increase in tuition fees will mean that next year's applicants are fully aware of their options and choose the route that best suits their goals, regardless of the perceived financial costs attached.