A University Education at Any Price?

Wednesday October 19, 2016

I recently learned a valuable lesson from my eldest daughter. 21, ambitious for herself, independent and keen to have an education, she has no intention of going to university, yet. She will do it after she has worked, as a mature student, somewhere in the world. She has managed to raise her head above the ‘school to university to work’ conveyor belt and has seen there is another way, one without debt.

I recently learned a valuable lesson from the daughter of one of our Associates. A bright girl (her Associate father has two doctorates if that is anything to go by) with a passion for philosophy and history, the conversation with her school careers advisor went something like: ‘You could go to Oxford or Cambridge’, ‘I don’t want to’, ‘But, you could go to Oxford or Cambridge’ ad infinitum. Her intelligent, well thought-out, mature and balanced preference is an OU degree followed by a Masters from a red brick university. Without debt.

This has taught me and my youngest daughter a valuable lesson. She is 18 and her school seems determined to get her into university as if her life, and their reputation, depended on it. There seem to be no alternatives, no discussion, no stopping to pause. It is university next year (the following at a push) or pariah. But there are alternatives, ones without debt.

The Open University version of the course my youngest wants to do costs about £6000 in total spread over three years full time. Or the same fee doing it part time spread over six years. She can study and work and use her time effectively and still come away with a decent degree. And no debt.

Another option is Edinburgh University, for example, who offer the course she wants as a part-time option. She can study and work and use her time effectively and still come away with a decent education. And no debt.

It is time to tell our young people that there is no time limit, no 'use-by' date on their education. It is time to tell them there are options about where they study and how they study and when they study. Compulsory education finishes at 16 in the UK. After that they have choices and we should encourage them to explore them, all of them. And this includes vocational training and apprenticeships. Even if they could go to Oxford or Cambridge.

The valuable lessons we have learned mean that, as I sit down with my daughter to think about her FE or HE level education, she can now start with this question: 

How can I have the best experience for the least money?

That one question throws up a whole new world of possibilities. Without debt.


Ian Gilbert
Independent Thinking


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