It is that time of year when it gets dark earlier in the evening, mornings are colder and, although we might not like it, our thoughts start to turn towards a certain day in December.
It is also the time when thousands are making choices through their applications to universities and university centres so that they may study at a higher education institution.
Usually any discussion about the value of higher education starts by pointing out facts regarding the higher salary gains of graduates, which longer term can mean better standards of living and increased pension benefits. And whilst this is still the case, the other benefits of studying or training at higher levels should not be overlooked, although they are far more difficult to quantify, but equally important. Attending a graduation ceremony will demonstrate this as it is easy to witness the sense of achievement felt by graduates and the sense of pride felt by parents, partners and children who attend.
For some the words ‘university’ or ‘degree’ will evoke images of a system designed for a few who must have very good A Level grades - for surely studying A Levels is the only route to university? This of course is now not the case - it is entirely possible, and indeed encouraged, for those who have taken a skills or vocational route after GCSEs to continue their studies at university and to graduate with a degree or professional qualification. The benefits of higher education are encompassed in the learning and studying experience, belonging to a peer group and having freedom to decide upon the areas of interest that can be further investigated, being asked to work independently; all of which help to develop skills that ask for critical examination and analysis. Research through either a dissertation or work based project can bring wider benefits for society and a sense of belonging to the whole academic community.
Much has been reported on the cost of education and student debt – but as applications and choices are made it should be remembered that the benefits will outweigh the costs longer term. Locality and course content should be high up on any list of priorities for decision making – there is a wealth of information available to prospective students concerning the staff, student satisfaction rates and destinations. Use all that is available to you so that you are confident you are making your decision based on information important to you.
After GCSEs and level three qualifications, higher education can give an opportunity to use knowledge and experience already gained to further develop deeper and more meaningful investigative skills. The term ‘benefits’ has come to have several meanings – increased salary benefits, fulfilment benefit, hopefully studying at higher education level will provide individual benefits and in some cases benefits to society as a whole. If there is an opportunity to study higher education at a university or university centre – take it and enjoy.
* Bonita Hodge, Deputy Principal Curriculum and Learner Experience, Doncaster College