Is University Right for You: Alternatives to Higher Education

Is University right for you?

Graduates often say that your time at university will be the best years of your life, and the majority of students would agree with them. However, university isn’t for everyone and in some cases you would be better off not applying to university and looking at the alternatives instead.

So, what are the alternatives to Higher Education?

A gap year

If you’re undecided about university, or you think you’d like to go, just not straight after college, then a gap year can give you valuable time to consider your options and build your CV.

Taking the time to plan and have clear goals will help you make the most of your gap year. Although we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to spend a bit of your time laying on a beach!

Get an entry-level job

These jobs don’t require a university degree or any experience in the field and are perfect for getting your foot in the door in a sector you’re interested in.

The three main types of entry-level job for school/college leavers are:

  • Traineeships – combining education and training with work experience. Usually these are short-term roles and result in a job offer or professional reference.
  • Apprenticeships – combining education and training with paid work experience leading to a formal qualification.
  • Employer-designed school leaver programmes – combining training and paid work experience for a professional qualification.

In all of these roles the financial rewards are usually low, but you will be training and working towards qualifications in an area you’re interested in. You’ll need to work your way up through the ranks, but if you’re the kind of person that prefers to learn on the job then this might be a good option to consider.

Do a sponsored degree

If it’s the cost of university that is putting you off then consider working for a company who will sponsor your education, giving you an opportunity to earn whilst you learn.

Companies likely to do this are ones where employees have practical roles, such as those working in science or engineering. You may also find that accountancy or financial firms offer sponsored degree programmes.

Be aware that there may be conditions and restrictions attached to a sponsored degree. For example, you might not have a choice in the university or subject if the company is partnered with a specific university.

You’ll also find that the company will want something in return for funding your degree i.e. work hours, so you’ll probably find yourself in the office during university holidays when your fellow students are sunning themselves abroad.

Do a Foundation degree or HND

Another alternative if you don’t fancy a full undergraduate degree but you’d still like to gain a qualification.

A Foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of a full honours degree. universities and higher education colleges often offer these in partnership with industry, so you’ll have a strong base to enter the workplace once you’re qualified.

Higher National Diplomas (HND) are vocational qualifications usually studied full time for two years to prepare you for a career in a specific industry – for example, catering, hospitality, engineering, business, or health and social care.

Usually there is the option to “top up” your qualification to a full honours degree if you’d like to apply for a graduate role or programme once you’ve completed your two years of study.