Thousands of young graduates across the UK are throwing flat, tasseled hats in the air whilst donning long black robes in celebration of their achievements this month. But with news reports showing that 270 graduates are fighting for every job available, does university just prolong the inevitable fate of unemployment that the credit-crunch graduates face?
The Game of Life: not only a description of what each of us are contenders in, but also a popular household board game that is begun by choosing a path. As we are presented with hundreds of path-taking decisions throughout life that could lead to better or worse outcomes, having just two to choose from in this game could be viewed as an easy luxury. So what will it be? Go to university or get a job?
Now in life, for some who could be deemed the lucky ones, this decision is made well in advance as they are sure of what it is their future holds. I myself fall into that category of knowing that university was the best option for me as it would lead to better prospects and enable me to study a specific area of interest. But with the possibility that anyone can enter into higher education nowadays, many acceptance letters are sent to people who are still unsure of what job is right for them so their application was written based on the social appeal of university and the avoidance of full-time work. Both of which are too good an opportunity to pass by, especially in the vulnerable, undecided mind of an 18-year-old.
But with the number of applicants rising each year and the amount of graduate positions decreasing along with the jobs that have been eradicated by the credit crunch, students and graduates are facing unemployment at the end of their degree as opposed to the £15,000 minimum salary that was promised.
So I ask, are the hardships of endless hours in the library, late-night revision sessions for exams, and three years of countless all-nighters, not to mention the £20,000 worth of debt that has been endured by thousands in order to stand on that podium, all really worth it?
Yes, with that degree comes the life experience of living independently, an added qualification, and knowledge that can carry you through to your aspiration of becoming a doctor, a lawyer or a psychologist; but what use is that when there are no positions for you to fill? Having an outstanding CV is all well and good but with no-one to show it to, the best three years of your life are now more likely to end with moving back in with your parents, and job-hunting, job-hunting, job-hunting!
Another strike against the 500,000-strong army of graduates is the fact that it is no longer acceptable to just pass your degree. If you want to be in with a chance of beating the other 20,000 students who are graduating in English too, your minimum degree level has to be a 2:1! Seventy-eight percent of employers are drawing the line at anything below that grade in order to help narrow down possible applicants and successful candidates. If you don’t meet that mark, you have no hope.
Employers are also basing decisions on which university you graduated from, in a bid to distinguish among applicants, thereby putting the likes of Oxford and Cambridge at the top of the league table and dashing the hopes of thousands whose place of study didn’t fall into that category, regardless of the degree they achieved.
Although my cap and gown day won’t (hopefully!) be during the tail-end of an economic crisis, the knowledge that so few jobs are available to anyone, let alone graduates who won’t have had as much experience in the field they are entering, is very worrying. Particularly when the career you have chosen is highly competitive and you must be the best of the best to even get your foot in the door.
Who has filled all these positions and left so many of us hovering in unreliable job-agency doorways, I hear you demand? Well, all the school-leavers of course, who chose that scary, grown-up path you hastily avoided right at the beginning, and jumped on the salary ladder instead of the wobbly debt rope. By the time you have graduated, they have worked their way to the top floor, have well and truly got their feet under the big marble table that is their desk and are earning more than you can ever hope to pocket in this glum, precise moment in time.
So which path is best, you ask? Both hold risks but whereas previously university held an unspoken guarantee that your BA would carry you through ahead of those sans degree, which consequently encouraged many to enrol, this is no longer the case, and the scrutiny which your qualification and CV face is terrifying. With the climate as it is, either path is a leap into the unknown, both with unemployment as the fast approaching dead-end.
Personally, although I’m aware a degree is not the ultimate key to success as you can undoubtedly triumph in your career without one, I will forever believe that a degree will get you ahead of the game at higher speed. However with the job front as dire as it is, my advice is to remain in education for as long as possible. Ride out the recession, grin and bear the loans, and save the job hunt until a more economically friendly time. But however many qualifications you hold, you will not get anywhere without a little bit of luck and that’s something that can’t be achieved through education.