Alternatives to university - a general overview

Did you know that University dropout rates are as high as almost 1 in 4, with the average student 'debt sentence' being 11 years? Well for those of you who are put off by such figures, those who aren't sure whether University is for you, or even if you're just curious as to the alternatives, this is a short insight into some of the opportunities which lie other than University.

Why Would I Not go to University?

While it may sound out of this world to those of you loving the student lifestyle, many find their skills are better equipped for the vocational route and aren't keen on the thought of further academic study. On top of this many people would simply rather be earning and learning from a younger age.


Will I Not Be More Successful with a Degree?

That depends on how you measure/define 'success'. It is true that graduates will earn circa £160,000 more over their lifetime than their school-leaver counterparts, but this figure is deeply enhanced because it includes the average earnings of dentists, brain surgeons, performing artists etc. In truth the average arts graduate, for example, will only be £34,949 better off than their non-graduate peers.

Of course you can't just measure success on accumulated earnings over a lifetime, but more importantly happiness and motivation in the workplace and for many this would be getting into a career with prospects rather than further study. For many reasons thousands of Uni students dropout every year and with it being such a costly exercise, it is important those of you not sure Uni is right for you get an insight into the alternatives.


What are the Alternatives?

There are so many opportunities besides the traditional route through University, it is difficult to put them in one article but here are a few to offer you some food for thought.


Not the boring image you would think, the beauty of the accountancy is so long as there is money in the world, there will be accountants! Many of the top accountancy firms offer opportunities to school leavers looking for anything from 260-340 UCAS points. Many smaller sized firms offer training places on the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) scheme. The training typically takes several years on-the-job with some day release courses. Once a qualified Accounting Technician there is scope for further training to become a Chartered Accountant.


Not known by many but there are alternative routes into the legal profession without a degree, the main training scheme being ILEX (Institute of Legal Executives) which combines on-the-job training with examinations and academic study. The training is often on day release if through a smaller solicitor's firm, or sometimes in-house if working through a large chain of firms. Once a qualified Legal Executive after several years you can go on to gain the qualifications necessary to make you a fully qualified solicitor.


For those of you not after the average 9-5 and want something more hands-on; retail is your calling! Most of the top retail chains offer A-Level entry schemes, typically 2/3 year management training opportunities. The beauty of working for the large organisations and training through them is that there are so many opportunities within, so you may start as an Assistant Manager of a food department and carry on to become Head of Distribution, or even Chief Executive for you ambitious folk!

Obviously the above are just three university alternatives, but there are so many in different industries. If you are not sure you are suited to University, or are just contemplating your options, check out for more information on your choices.