An increasingly popular option, university study (also referred to as Higher Education) enables students to work towards further qualifications, the most common being an undergraduate degree. There are an incredible number of options available for degree level study, as well as the opportunity to split your focus across two main areas by choosing a joint honours degree programme. The UCAS website is a great place to start when exploring what type of courses are out there. For those that might have a good idea of which courses interest them, university league tables (such as this one provided by the Guardian) can give you an insight into which universities are particularly good at meeting your needs.
A common concern regarding university study is the associated cost. Whilst it is important to factor this in as part of the decision making process, it is also important to remember that loans are available to cover tuition fees and contribute towards living costs (accommodation, food, travel etc) and that students are only required to start repaying these loans once they have finished university and started earning a salary. At this point, repayments only begin when an income is over £2,214 a month (before tax and other deductions), and once this threshold is reached, all earnings above the minimum are subject to a 9% repayment charge.
Example: Your annual income is £28,800 and you are paid a regular monthly wage. This means that each month your income is £2,400 (£28,800 divided by 12). This is over the monthly threshold of £2,214.
Your income is £186 over the threshold (£2,400 minus £2,214). You will pay back £16 (9% of £186) each month.
However, such fees and charges need to be considered in balance with earning potential. A 2020 study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that on average graduates currently stand to earn over £100,000 more than their non-graduate counterparts over their lifetime after taxes and loan repayments etc. That said, the same study found that one in five graduates would be financially worse off than if they hadn’t attended university. The take home message here is simply that everybody’s situation is different, all options should be explored, and that university fees shouldn’t be considered automatically prohibitive.
Once a student has completed college they have the option to enter the world of work. This might be with a view to start their career in earnest, or it could be with the intention of gaining experience and saving money before traveling or returning to education. In either case, signing up to job sites (such as the government job search) is a good way of keeping abreast of opportunities which might arise in the area.
Apprenticeships are the most focused and specific way to gain qualifications. Apprenticeships are designed for students that know exactly what they want to do next and want to get started on that journey!
Apprenticeships are essentially a form of ‘on the job training’. Apprentices will typically join a workforce where 80% of the time will be spent simply doing the job! This might then be combined with one day a week at a local college, or personal tutoring in the workplace.
Considering that securing an apprenticeship entails joining a company’s workforce (and payroll!) if follows that apprenticeship placements are far fewer in number than university places, and can therefore be far more competitive. Unlike university applications, apprenticeships may open and advertise at any point throughout the year so it is important to constantly be on the lookout for openings and opportunities. To that end, it is a good idea to set up a profile at the Government apprenticeship search site, in order to receive notification of suitable openings.
Apprenticeships run across a range of levels and are suitable for people with varying qualifications and experience. For students leaving after their GCSEs, Intermediate and Advanced level apprenticeships (sometimes referred to as level 2 and 3 respectively) would be most suitable, whereas students who have completed college should focus more on Advanced, Higher or Degree Level apprenticeships (levels 3-7).
As alluded to previously, another benefit of apprenticeships is that participants are paid to get qualifications. A commonly heard phrase is ‘earn while you learn’!
Useful ‘Parent Guides’ can be found at both the Government and Amazing Apprenticeships websites.
A traineeship is a course with work experience that gets students ready for work or an apprenticeship. It can last from 6 weeks up to 1 year, though most traineeships last for less than 6 months. Traineeships aim to provide:
The government Traineeship website can be used to search for local openings.
Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications.
(HNCs and HNDs respectively) an increasing number of specialist Institute of Technology (IoTs) are being funded over the coming years and this a developing landscape that deserves exploring.
A currently undersubscribed route, many students choose to either leave college (after studying level 3 qualifications) and head straight into work, or undertake degree level study (level 6 qualification) at university. However, Level 4 and 5 qualifications, such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) respectively, are a good alternative for students looking to improve their industry related skills and increase their employability before starting work in the following 12-24 months.