University is not for everyone. As a society we seem to be putting pressure on numbers, trying to increase the percentage of young people that transition into higher education, which encourages universities to set ridiculous intake targets year on year. Learning in an intense academic institution isn’t something that everyone can do, or wants to do, and those who don’t want to participate should be offered alternative and equally successful routes into employment.
Jobs have different requirements, and skills which need to be cultured in different environments. The more people that undergo a university education, the less valuable these skills become in an oversaturated job market. For some careers, the practical skills of an apprenticeship or lower level job may be more beneficial than a formal education, and no-one should be shamed for taking advantage of these opportunities over university.
A university education should be accessible to every young person, if they want it and feel that it would equip them with the tools that they need. However, this isn’t financially realistic for many people, with advantaged students being 2.4 times more likely to go into higher education than disadvantaged students. Money shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone who wants to attend university, whether this means lowering tuition fees so that students aren’t put off by future debts or increasing or standardising maintenance loans, so that everyone receives the same amount. No student should be in the position where their maintenance loan doesn’t cover their rent. The assumption that families should top up the maintenance loans of their children is unreasonable, and not viable in many cases.
It is unlikely that student finance will make these changes, but we can be hopeful that the pressure to go to university regardless of your goals will soon cease.