What is a degree worth?

This has got to be the big question on the minds of A-level students. Whether you have to pay the full £9K fees, need to work to pay for your living costs or choose to study abroad at a ‘cheaper’ university – what will you gain from doing a degree?

The flippant answer is – what price can you put on the opportunity to study with like-minded souls in one of our highly esteemed higher education intuitions? But that doesn’t work for me!

This is an important question, which needs answering in two ways:

  • What is the financial gain?
  • What is the personal gain?

Firstly, considering the financial gain. It would appear from an UK plc view, graduates contribute £180K to the economy (10 times the cost of their education) and are vital to competitiveness. Collectively that’s £1.3 billion to UK Society. At a personal level there is projected to be a lifetime gain of nearly £80K – which is 20% down on the pre-£9K fees world. Of course, this is the average. If you pick the ‘right’ course at the ‘right’ university, will you out perform this average?

Secondly, considering the personal gain. This is the really tricky one! No one can answer this question but you. And you have to do your research. Visit different types of universities. Investigate the total offer – curricula (academic subjects), co-curricula (careers, student union, volunteering) and the city. What you can’t put a value on is, who you might meet or the network you graduate with. So, should you ignore this?

And finally, if you decide to go to university – hit the ground running! Engage in the full offer with your CV in mind. That means: Go to that lecture; Join that society; Go to that event; Apply for that internship; Take that part-time job; Consider a year abroad; Seize the opportunities. Be ready to invest your time but remain open to the fact it might not be the right time and place for you – 10% fewer people than lat year think the investment is worth it. There are many other ways to develop and university is just one of them.

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School

One thought on “What is a degree worth?”

  1. Good advice Nigel, particularly about seizing the opportunities when you are at University – it really does make a difference when applying for that all important first job post graduation.

Comments are closed.