How do I choose between University or an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships vs University

Deciding whether to study a professional qualification through an apprenticeship or to go to university can be a difficult choice. With the rise of student debt here in Hertfordshire we are finding that more and more students want to discover apprenticeship opportunities to further their careers. 

Former Skills minister Nick Boles advocated that apprenticeships should be considered a clear alternative to university.

“I would like to get to a place where there’s a choice between two routes, both of which could take you as far as you want to go – one of which is a full-time university degree, the other is an apprenticeship,” he said.

Recent research shows that the average debt of a student at graduation is £50,000, with poorer students being stung more with an average owed of £56,000.

On the other hand, apprentices can earn anywhere from £22,644, to well over £50,000 in the equivalent three years, whilst also studying for a degree-level qualification.

On average, over three years, an apprentice has the potential to have over £4000 in disposable income or to add to their savings. An apprentice will gain a qualification and three years’ worth of work experience over the same amount of time it would take a university student to complete their degree.

What is the difference between Apprenticeships and University?

At university, you’ll have the opportunity to specialise in a specific area of academic study. The subject choice is huge and it’s not just about studying the core subjects you learn at school.

Apprenticeships however, are work-based learning programmes, where you’ll learn practical skills in a working environment. You will gain a relevant qualification that will help your future career prospects. One of main differences between an apprenticeship and studying at university is you can "earn while you learn", so you have to think about whether the higher costs of university are worth it for you.

Of course there is always the issue of University life! The social side. That could be important to you when making your post 18 decisions. 

This table below summarises the main differences between University and Apprenticeships.

University Apprenticeships
Undergraduate degrees last between 3 and 4 years Depending on the level apprenticeships have a duration of between 1 and 5 years
Focus is on academic study Focus is on work-based training
Over 130 Universities in the UK and thousands of courses on offer Apprenticeships available in over 1500 job roles
Tuition fees up to £9,250 per annum in the UK No tuition fees. Costs are covered by the employer (with government funding) and salary paid for the duration of the programme
Opportunity to do a placement or year in industry to get professional experience Apprentices develop practical skills, alongside qualifications

What next?

This article in the Telegraph provides a good case study from two students - one who took the University route and one who became a degree apprentice.

Our University in Hertfordshire offers both Degree Apprenticeships and of course the traditional on-campus degree pathways. Take a look at their showcase page to find out more about what's available locally.

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