Nearly half of students and graduates regret going to university

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The FINANCIAL — Students across the UK are regretting going to university, according to new research by Barclays Apprenticeships.

Almost half (48 per cent) of students and graduates who left university in the last five years say they regret their decision to go to university and 44 per cent say they do not need a degree to do their current job, according to Barclays.

Two thirds of students and graduates felt under pressure to go to university

44 per cent say they do not need a degree for their current job

71 per cent of parents would encourage apprenticeships over a university degre

70 per cent of employers said they valued degree apprenticeships as highly as a  university degree

Young people

The study reveals that 65 per cent of young people felt under pressure to go to university, with a third (34 per cent) citing this as coming from their parents and a fifth (19 per cent) saying it was from their friends. A shocking 70 per cent felt their parents would have been disappointed if they had not gone to university and when asked their reasons for choosing university, almost a fifth (18 per cent) admitted they only went to please their parents.


Despite their offspring’s worries, over half (54 per cent) of parents of students and graduates say they would not have been disappointed had their child not gone to university and instead considered other routes. In fact, 71 per cent said they would actually encourage their child to do an apprenticeship over a university degree, revealing a significant shift in attitudes compared to 2016, when 65 per cent of parents felt university was the best option for their child. Parents are also becoming increasingly knowledgeable about higher education with 64 per cent of those polled now aware of degree level apprenticeships, compared to only 17 per cent in 2016[1]

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Fear of not being able to get a job after university was a prominent worry for 42 per cent of young people who did (or are doing) a degree and 58 per cent cited improve their job prospects as the reason for obtaining a degree. However, 70 per cent of employers said they valued degree apprenticeships as highly as a university degree and 96 per cent say they would hire someone who had done an apprenticeship or a degree via the apprenticeship route.  


Educators’ attitudes are changing too, with almost half (42 per cent) of those surveyed saying teachers discussed apprenticeships as an alternative career route, compared to under a quarter (24 per cent) in 2016. 

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: “Our universities are world-class, but there are other routes to a successful career. We want to change the perception that one route is better than any other. Doing an apprenticeship brings amazing opportunities; you are earning while you are learning, and getting really valuable skills that will make you an attractive prospect to businesses.

“There are high-quality apprenticeships available right up to degree level in lots of sectors at the cutting edge including engineering, aerospace, nursing and nuclear. You can also do an apprenticeship to become a teacher or accountant. There are so many opportunities out there.

“Apprenticeships are only going to keep growing in this country because employers like Barclays are increasingly realising it’s not just about what you know, it’s about the skills you have. Don’t have tunnel vision and make sure you find the route into a great job that’s right for you.” 

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With over 3,000 participants since launching its award-winning Apprenticeship programme in April 2012, Barclays offers a variety of schemes to suit a range of levels, interests and ages – including Traineeships, Foundation, Advanced, Bolder, Higher & Degree Apprenticeships. Through these programmes, Barclays offers candidates from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to achieve far-reaching skills, experience and insight. Enabling candidates to earn while they learn, Barclays Higher and Degree Apprentices receive 100 per cent funding, along with a competitive salary and benefits.

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