Is a degree still worth it?

In the days of dogs obtaining masters’ degrees (thank you Newsnight), no guaranteed employment prospects upon graduation, and fees of £9,000 a year for degrees that can have as little as six contact hours a week for some arts students, a question seems to be rising. It’s a question that, maybe, we really don’t want to have ask ourselves, but know that we must. Are university degrees still worth it?


Not to prompt an existential crisis, or the feeling that all that time in college or sixth form spent getting up at 6 am, crying through essays and writing (and re-writing and re-writing) personal statements wasn’t worth it, because it absolutely was. Yes, it’s true that as university degrees become more common, having one no longer separates you from the other dozens of prospective employees. But it is also true that a graduate is much more likely to get that job than someone who does not have a university degree at all.

A university degree, whether it’s in an applied subject like chemistry or an arts subject like philosophy, still shows employers that you have a strong work ethic (particularly if you achieve a 2:1 or even a First), the ability to use logic and reason adequately, dedication and commitment, and a remarkable amount of knowledge on the subject that you studied. These are all eminently employable and transferable skills.But I think it’s fair to assume that most of you know that already. That is, I presume, a good part of why you’ve come to university in the first place. It’s figuring out what to do once you get here to get the most out of your experience that’s really going to make you stick out from the crowd of degree-bearing applicants (and no, I don’t just mean figuring out how to balance LCR Tuesday nights with 9am Wednesday seminars).

It’s well worth the few quid to join a few societies that sound really interesting to you as a way to boost your CV and also your personal growth. Don’t worry if they’re not at all related to your degree, or something you’d never thought about doing before you heard of them: trying new things is what university is for, and at worst you’ll have spent maybe £3 and a couple of hours of your time figuring out what you don’t want to do. It’s worth looking into part-time employment, too – during the term if you can fit it into your schedule, or in the holidays if not – as a way to make you a more employable graduate and also to help with the accidental expenses student life seems to bring. It’s also a great way to get letters of recommendation written that can be a great addition to your CV, making you stand out from the crowd and giving a potential employer a better idea of who the person behind the cover sheet is.

As you amble along – or frantically run, as the case may be – to your next lecture, it’s worth reminding yourself that, even though society may have lost touch with the value of an education, in the race to get that piece of paper that proves you’ve got one, you don’t have to. There’s so much more to you and your university experience, than could ever be listed on your CV. Accidentally overloading the dryer so that your one set of sheets are wet at 11.30 on a Wednesday night doesn’t feel very academic, but it taught you a lot, right? Same with settling washing-up disputes as the friendly flatmate glow of the first few weeks wears off, or trying to do the impossible and pay for food while going out more than you should each week. There’s a lot to be learned in university, inside and outside the classroom, and that’s something that you can’t put on a fancy diploma, ora price on – try as the fee rise might.


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December 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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