University: Not Worth It? Watch

Darkademic
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I graduated in 2008, and since then I've looked back on going to university and can't help but wonder whether it was worth it (in terms of both time and money).

I'd be curious to know what experiences other people have had, as well as if any of the potential university goers on this forum have their own doubts about whether they should even bother.

I'm just going to write what comes to mind.

Firstly, I don't claim that there's a straightforward yes or no answer to whether university is worth it, it depends on the individual, the university, and what a person hopes to get out of it.

These days, it seems like schools and colleges make it out as if university is vital, and certainly something everyone should at least try to get into - but rarely is there any exploration of the tangible benefits, it's just taken for granted that it's important and you are prepared for it regardless of whether it'd really benefit you and your life.

There are really two supposed benefits, the qualifications/knowledge/skills you get, and the more general social/life experience of leaving home etc.

I'd actually break apart qualifications from knowledge/skills, as in my opinion qualifications are bordering on meaningless. I see them as a measurement of how well you prepare for exams rather than of knowledge or ability. They're still a benefit of course, since certain jobs will require certain qualifications, but I personally don't believe they say much about your abilities.

Now, when I think of the total cost of university, in terms of the 3 or 4 years I could've been working, and in terms of the hefty price tag (even after taking loans and grants into account), university doesn't seem worth it; the costs outweigh the benefits.

One counter-argument is that people who graduate from university do get better starting salaries than those who don't. Sure, however I think there are problems with this argument. Firstly, it says nothing about the salaries those people would've gotten after working for 3 years (after that amount of time their talents should really have spoken for themselves), and secondly it says nothing about how many graduates manage to maintain or increase their salary, or even keep their job. Following from my view of qualifications as not being representative of actual ability, I wouldn't be surprised if many graduates fail to do so after being exposed to 'the real world' where you have to perform well more persistently than in education (exceptions exist of course). Furthermore, it doesn't take into account the fact that those who attend university (and graduate) are going to on average be at least marginally more skilled than those who don't, but I'd argue that those people have the potential to be equally skilled without going through university.

Moving on to the actual knowledge/skills gained, from what I've experienced there are MANY university courses that are a joke, and teach you very, very little. In many cases, particularly in more practical or vocational subjects, it is possible (and often better) to learn through experience, research, reading etc., and a formal, lecture/classroom style education is simply not as effective.

This is certainly the case for me. I am a programmer/web-developer, and most of my knowledge and skills have come from working in my own time on my own projects, and reading books. Since graduating I have been running my own business so the qualifications issue isn't even applicable. Honestly I'm not sure if I learned anything at university that I wouldn't have been able to learn myself, and I was certainly taught a lot of useless junk besides.

So all that's left is the social/life-experience issue. Certainly, leaving home and meeting new people is a good thing, but you don't need university for that.

In general I think that the whole education system is becoming out-dated, not just university, and that people need to be better taught how to think, rather than taught lists of facts to memorise for exams. Maybe that's better saved for a different thread though.
Last edited by Darkademic; 2 weeks ago
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7589200
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I don't think you should belittle the non-academic side so much. People develop so much from the experience - that in itself is worth it alone. It isn't really just about getting drunk. Its about developing a set of skills that allows you to function better in society. Its about creating a lot of good memories and friends too!

When you look at the academic side, I think that some of the choices people make are poor, yes. They do courses which won't help their careers or broaden their knowledge and skills, but there certainly are a lot of courses that will. I think SOME university is not worth it, in this respect; but a lot are.
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wanderlust.xx
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Depends on the degree.

If you're going to do a degree at Staffordshire in Marketing, you're probably better off going straight into the working world and building experience, since experience > degree in marketing/business. (MASSIVE GENERALISATION)

On the other hand, degree in mathematics from Cambridge >> work experience.
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User592005
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I am awefully sorry, but web development just isn't a very complicated job. Sure, it requires effort, but you're not a top of the line programmer just because you made this PHP CMS one day.

You're right though. It depends on your profession. I'm studying engineering and mathematics, and I would have gotten nowhere without university, and I would probably have gotten some lousy programming job if i weren't studying right now.
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THEALB10N
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It really depends on the degree subject and the field of work entered.
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Est.
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(Original post by Darkademic)

One counter-argument is that people who graduate from university do get better starting salaries than those who don't. Sure, however I think there are problems with this argument. Firstly, it says nothing about the salaries those people would've gotten after working for 3 years (after that amount of time their talents should really have spoken for themselves), and secondly it says nothing about how many graduates manage to maintain or increase their salary, or even keep their job.
On average, graduates make more money than non-graduates in their entire lifetime, not just starting salaries.

In USA graduates make $1 million more, in UK they make on average £100,000 more in a lifetime.
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Darkademic
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(Original post by tulcod)
I am awefully sorry, but web development just isn't a very complicated job. Sure, it requires effort, but you're not a top of the line programmer just because you made this PHP CMS one day.

You're right though. It depends on your profession. I'm studying engineering and mathematics, and I would have gotten nowhere without university, and I would probably have gotten some lousy programming job if i weren't studying right now.
I'm awfully sorry, but you're wrong, it can be very complicated and challenging; there's a reason why the average salaries of an engineer and a programmer are identical.

Programming and engineering are similar in many ways - being based on very logical/mathematical foundations whilst demanding a high degree of creativity.

One of my best friends is an engineer, and we've discussed this at length.

I'm not even sure what your point is (aside from declaring your superiority); that 'less complicated' professions don't require going to university?
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Hanvyj
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I'm paying back £15 a month, so It's certainly not costing me much.

That said, a lot of the time it isn't worth it (expecially since alot of people do the wrong subjects, for example I would have chosen engineering If I could go back, my gf would have done social work)

I also learned to program during my spare time. This was spare time I had because I went to uni tho! Also I was just damn jammy getting my current job in software development (someone who had actualy done a computer science degree would probably be better placed!)
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Darkademic
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(Original post by Est.)
On average, graduates make more money than non-graduates in their entire lifetime, not just starting salaries.

In USA graduates make $1 million more, in UK they make on average £100,000 more in a lifetime.
Interesting, but £100,000 in a lifetime isn't a huge amount. Do you not think graduates would've earned more anyway, even if they didn't go to university, since they're generally going to be more talented/hard-working/ambitious etc.?
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muffingg
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*Subbed* Wanna know as well about other peoples' opinions on this
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Darkademic
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(Original post by Vazzyb)
I don't think you should belittle the non-academic side so much. People develop so much from the experience - that in itself is worth it alone. It isn't really just about getting drunk. Its about developing a set of skills that allows you to function better in society. Its about creating a lot of good memories and friends too!

When you look at the academic side, I think that some of the choices people make are poor, yes. They do courses which won't help their careers or broaden their knowledge and skills, but there certainly are a lot of courses that will. I think SOME university is not worth it, in this respect; but a lot are.
Yeah, I'm only speaking from my own experience, there are no doubt valuable experiences to be found at university - I have a lot of good memories myself. Still, such experiences/memories are not necessarily exclusive to universities, you can gain social skills etc. from jobs, travelling etc.
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Darkademic
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(Original post by wanderlust.xx)
Depends on the degree.

If you're going to do a degree at Staffordshire in Marketing, you're probably better off going straight into the working world and building experience, since experience > degree in marketing/business. (MASSIVE GENERALISATION)

On the other hand, degree in mathematics from Cambridge >> work experience.
Do you think a degree in mathematics is better than work experience (or learning some other way) because of the qualification you get, or do you think you literally couldn't gain the same knowledge/skills anywhere else?
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User592005
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(Original post by Darkademic)
I'm awfully sorry, but you're wrong, it can be very complicated and challenging; there's a reason why the average salaries of an engineer and a programmer are identical.

Programming and engineering are similar in many ways - being based on very logical/mathematical foundations whilst demanding a high degree of creativity.

One of my best friends is an engineer, and we've discussed this at length.

I'm not even sure what your point is (aside from declaring your superiority); that 'less complicated' professions don't require going to university?
i am actually unsure what your point is. first you claim that your university experience was useless, which i agreed to, and then you start complaining that i degraded your job tot one not requiring a university course.

programming and engineering *can* be very complicated and challenging. computer vision, innovations in algorithm complexity and cryptology are things you can't do by surfing on the 'net and reading up on wikipedia.

however, most graduates don't end up at such jobs, which fits with your claim that university can be worthless, except maybe for the personal experience.

and yes, my point is exactly that less complicated professions don't require a degree. some do, and most programmers don't have such a job, although, as i've said, there are some parts of programming where you do need the right background. isn't that what you're claiming as well? i'm on your side here; my point was to show some subtleties of your argument.

oh, and to measure equality of jobs by their salary is meaningless, of course.
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humbug5678
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I think all threads on this post pose a plausible argument but in essence some people aren't ready to find a job before uni.
Most of the time on university campus' they teach you skills that spruce up your CV and teach you to know what to say at interviews in amongst learning vital skills that sometimes are highly relevant to the career you want to persue.
with this said some people may come out of uni even more worse off than when they went in as they have spent the time partying and paying for their time with relatives money (so haven't learnt nothing about handling money). But overall if i wasnt going to uni id have to stay home because I wouldnt be getting enough money to move out but with student loans and grants i have that opportunity. Also people say you meet the best friends of your life in uni. Yes people may waste there degrees and not get a relevant job but 3 years is a long time to be preoccupied as opposed to looking for a job constantly.
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nexttime
  • TSR Support Team
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(Original post by Darkademic)
Interesting, but £100,000 in a lifetime isn't a huge amount. Do you not think graduates would've earned more anyway, even if they didn't go to university, since they're generally going to be more talented/hard-working/ambitious etc.?
An excellent point.

What you say is true, on the whole. Most degrees teach very little that could not be used doing an actual job (with some notable exceptions). I think the primary point of a degree in today's world is a) to grow up a bit before the big banks or whatever start having to flood themselves with 17y/o work experience kids and more importantly b) to show you can.

Fact is, the vast majority of able students go to university. A lot of big employers have a degree as a compulsory qualification not necessarily because the degree has taught you how to do the job, but because they want the most intelligent people and that is the way to find them. Thus, you have to jump the uni hoop to prove you are intelligent, not because uni itself increases your ability substantially.
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Darkademic
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(Original post by tulcod)
i am actually unsure what your point is. first you claim that your university experience was useless, which i agreed to, and then you start complaining that i degraded your job tot one not requiring a university course.
There's a difference between 'requiring a university course' and 'being complicated/difficult'. Whilst I'd agree that programming doesn't require one, since learning it involves a lot of hands-on trial-and-error, I certainly wouldn't call it simple. Put it this way, I'd say that the barrier to becoming a programmer/web developer is very low, but at the same time the skill ceiling is very high (so high that it's nigh-on impossible to become a master of all aspects of it).

(Original post by tulcod)
programming and engineering *can* be very complicated and challenging. computer vision, innovations in algorithm complexity and cryptology are things you can't do by surfing on the 'net and reading up on wikipedia.
however, most graduates don't end up at such jobs, which fits with your claim that university can be worthless, except maybe for the personal experience.

and yes, my point is exactly that less complicated professions don't require a degree. some do, and most programmers don't have such a job, although, as i've said, there are some parts of programming where you do need the right background. isn't that what you're claiming as well? i'm on your side here; my point was to show some subtleties of your argument.
You appeared to be implying that web development is easy, and that I just made a CMS and considered myself an expert. If that isn't what you meant then fair enough.

(Original post by tulcod)
oh, and to measure equality of jobs by their salary is meaningless, of course.
Not true. Salary is a measurement of a job's market value which is a product of how many people can do it versus how many people are needed (i.e. supply and demand). Jobs requiring more skill will be doable by fewer people, thus elevating the salary.

Of course there are many other factors to consider, but salary is not meaningless, especially considering getting a 'better' (a.k.a. better paid) job is one of the top reasons for going to university.
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Genocidal
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In truth i'm becoming unsure of whether I want to continue on to university now. I'm feeling burned out and I know the degree I chose was just for personal interest rather than application so I can still learn history without a degree.

However i'm also wary about taking a gap year because I have so much pressure to go now to save money even though I could go even with raised fees. I'm also under pressure because I don't know how to tell someone that I have chosen not to go to university when i'm predicted AAA and I gained AAB for AS level. It feels like i'm wasting my time.

I also worry about getting into apprenticeships or anything like that and I would like to travel alone. At the moment i'm fighting over happiness or a future which isn't guaranteed. If the degree goes wrong and I lose it I then have to face large amounts of debt even if I go before the tuition fees rises.
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Darkademic
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(Original post by tulcod)
seems to me you don't measure the usefulness of a degree solely by its market value. or do you? ok i've lost it.
I said "[o]f course there are many other factors to consider, but salary is not meaningless."

(Original post by tulcod)
[offtopic]oh and yes, with all due respect, web development is easy.[/offtopic]
No, it has a low barrier to entry, so the basics (HTML) are very easy, but advanced web development can be very complicated, involving advanced database design, object-oriented programming, design patterns, server configuration, SSL, character-set conversion for non-Western languages etc. etc.
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LaughingBro
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Seems more about testing than actual learning.
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wanderlust.xx
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(Original post by Darkademic)
Do you think a degree in mathematics is better than work experience (or learning some other way) because of the qualification you get, or do you think you literally couldn't gain the same knowledge/skills anywhere else?
You simply can't find the skill anywhere else - unless, of course, you go straight into some sort of fast track route into a finance company where they teach you it all, but again, you need to show evidence that you can learn and apply logic like a mathematician and you're comfortable with working with high-end numeracy.
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