A colleague of mine has two sons and a daughter all at University for the first time. Talk about triple whammy. To make matters worse, in their second year they’ll have to move out of the University halls of accommodation and he’ll have to be a guarantor for their 52 week rented accommodation.

I was the first in the family to go to University. This was the late 1970s when only the top 5% went to University and you got a grant not a lifetime of debt. All in exchange for that piece of paper that near enough guaranteed you a job after you graduated. In 1981, despite the recession it only took me three months to get my first programming job.

Since then the secondary school leaving age has gone up, Tony Blair pushed for 50% of those in secondary education to go onto University and the total UK student debt has soared to more than £100bn. Source.  Remember that is not just the tuition loan (maximum £9,250 in 2018-2019) but also the maintenance loan i.e. the money students need to live on, buying food, books, transport etc.

Currently students are expected to graduate owing somewhere in the region of £40,000+ as not only do they have the loans to pay back but interest at RPI + 3% (in England) that accrues from the date of the first loan.

Once you start working, and earn £404 a week (£1,750 a month or £21,000 a year) you have to pay 9% of your income back each payday. These are approximate figures and vary according to the plan you’re on. Source.

Degree or No Degree?

For a large part of my career, 1981-2000 getting a job in software development without a degree was nigh-on impossible. This is a glass ceiling for many well paid jobs, not just in software, mainly because those jobs are recruited through agencies. The degree requirement filters out applicants. Over the last ten years they’ve raised this bar by often requiring a 2:1 degree though I’ve found some, more enlightened, agents will waive the 2:1 part if you have at least five years experience.

Research from last year suggests that female graduates with a degree earn £250,000 more in their life than those with just 2 A-Levels but no degree. For men the figure is £170,000 and both figures factor in the student loan repayments. However other research from the IFS found that at some institutions the median graduate was earning less after 10 years than the median non-graduate. It’s even worse in the creative arts where there’s little difference in earnings between graduates and non-graduates. Source.

There have been a few times when the technology is so new that you can get a software job without a degree. From 1984-1990 I created computer games and it was my track record that got me job interviews. Universities have only offered games development degrees for a decade or two so some games development may need a degree to get into. Generally though games development is an area that you can do well in without that oh so expensive degree if you know your stuff.

Two other areas where you can get currently get a decent paying job without a degree are web and mobile development. These technologies change fairly fast and there’s no way universities can keep up with them. This leads to a shortage and recruitment agents and employers can be very pragmatic when they need to be. Blockchain and AI are two other technologies where demand currently exceeds supply. Get learning!

There was a time about six years ago when MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) first appeared that I thought online training might be the answer and they are certainly a way to get the training that is otherwise too expensive. Apart from teaching me to program in Pascal, my degree course was of little relevance to my programming career afterwards and I’d have felt badly shortchanged had I ended up with £40,000 debt for what I got. I’m almost 100% self-taught from books and a few online courses.

If Britain is to prosper, it needs to reduce the cost to graduates to get their degrees or accept that many software development jobs do not need graduates. With fewer Europeans coming here post Brexit, that may well become the new reality.

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So Much For Subtlety
Guest
So Much For Subtlety

You have a sweet, perfectly normal daughter. You send her away for four years. She comes back with spikey blue hair, an extensive collection of tattoos, several piercings and a new career making “art” videos with her Afro-German girlfriend. How can you put a price on that? University education needs to get more expensive before it can get better. Only when repayments bite will parents think about what they are signalling. A lot of courses should not be taught. Some should not be taught at university – and programming may be one. Numbers should be massively reduced. Staff and students… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

There’s a big difference between large and small companies. Large companies really want graduates, small ones will run tests on what you can do. I interviewed someone once who was doing A levels, building apps in his spare time. Recommended by his teacher (who was also the wife of a manager). I said he was strong enough to hire as a trainee. Had the essentials down, had the talent, had the personality. Would need some extra training, but would be a good asset. You don’t get that in big companies and one factor in this is the “cover arse” effect… Read more »

Mr Ecks
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Mr Ecks

Are University Degrees Really Worth Their Cost?

No

Except for science, engineering etc. Fuck the so-called humanities which are nothing but a leftist propaganda factory.

Science is increasingly being nibbled at by leftist shite claiming that reason and rigorous thought are white , male etc, ad nauseam:

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2018/03/jack-kerwick/academia-reason-promotes-white-male-privilege/

Purge all leftist scum from Unis –as staff, so-called teachers and students. Boot them out with nothing.

bloke in spain
Guest
bloke in spain

Universities are just a recreation of the guild system. Almost impossible to ply a trade unless you’ve been inculcated into the “mysteries” at a university because the gatekeepers to your chosen career are guild members themselves. Universities exist not to disseminate knowledge but to monopolise learning.
Carpet bomb the lot, bulldoze the rubble & sow the ground hey stood on with nuclear waste.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

“Since then the secondary school leaving age has gone up, Tony Blair pushed for 50% of those in secondary education to go onto University…” I always thought this was more a ruse to reduce Labour’s unemployment figures than to educate our children. In more recent times I don’t believe I’ve met a friend, neighbour or relative that wasn’t in a quandary over the lack of choice facing their kids or grandkids, not least as to whether they should go to university or seek some sort of apprenticeship. If junior is a natural academic and has done well as school (straight… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

There’s lots of jobs out there. Jobs above McJobs for people who just have good A levels. Most of the offices I work in have lots of A level people. There’s also lots of ways to get careers outside of university: you don’t need a degree to be a dental nurse, go and do whatever they call CORGI nowadays. C&G qualifications in all sorts of things like bricklaying or being a car mechanic. The problem is that what middle class parents want for their kids is cosy sinecures in premium workplaces with Aeron chairs and espresso machines. The route into… Read more »

Bernie G.
Guest
Bernie G.

You’d be surprised by the number of middle-class parents steering their kids towards degree-level apprenticeships.

bloke in spain
Guest
bloke in spain

@TW
“That’s very good, I like that.”

Well think about it. There are those who wish to learn & those with knowledge to impart. All that is required is somewhere for one lot to sit at the feet of the other. Be it a factory unit on industrial estate or a virtual room on the internet. Markets can look after the rest because reputation has bankable value. The whole panalopy of Oxbridge colleges & ecclesiastical terms & silly robes is a medieval anachronism perpetuated to keep an educational grand-mastership on the top of the heap.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Indeed. If I wanted to get into software now, I wouldn’t go to university. I’d go to a good code school that was respected in a few industries and get my foot in the door. Less than 6 months of intensive learning in the things industry wants. Most of the comp sci courses are a waste of time. Learning how to calculate complexity of algorithms as if we’re still running on DEC VAX machines at 0.5MIPS. Learning sort algorithms as if anyone ever writes a sort. They’re staffed with people who never left university or can’t cut it in the… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Yup. Or, if on a shoestring budget: Pick a company. Get a job in the mailroom. Meet and buy drinks for the engineers. Learn what they need and learn how to provide it. Brainstorm with them, come to their lab, maybe do a little coding for free. There will be the same battles about getting that job without the prerequisite credentials that Human Resources insists on, but the engineers will now fight those battles.

Bloke on M4
Guest
Bloke on M4

In most places, HR don’t have that power. In big places they’re irritating bureaucracies with a stack of rules but in SMEs, it’s Maureen and Pam and the boss tells them that some bloke is now working in IT and they change the details on the payroll system. I think most people would be surprised to know just how many programmers took the path of “automating something I had to do” into the industry. I worked in a place that did printing and the production controller built a job tracking system in Access and had people entering orders, recording printing… Read more »

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

I’ve one qualification. Some Stock Exchange related thing took one afternoon a week at some place connected with City U & a bit of book reading. Vaguely interfered with my social life at the time. The piece of paper it produced (& I’ve long lost along with memory of the subject matter) would have been helpful in an ongoing career & was supposed to be equivalent to a degree. And I’m a bench trained gold & silversmith. Once went to an exhibition of work by that year’s graduates of jewellery design. What a hoot! Must have been 6 pieces there,… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

I agree with the author that “getting a job in software development without a degree was nigh-on impossible.” The exceptions are mostly self-made, notably Bill Gates, or lucky sperms whose father owns the business. The product (the credential) is valuable. The product (the content of those four years) is ludicrous except as a holding tank to keep kids from entering the job market so immature as to disrupt it. The process is four years of impunity, management by an impersonal corporation or a state agency, and a liberal (read “leftie”) sprinkling of grievance politics and change-the-world posturing. The Internet is… Read more »

Ex Prof
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Ex Prof

Reduce the staff? Blimey. I was in a department of 20 when we had 140 students in the 1970s. When I left, we had 12 staff and 600 students. And that’s in a STEM subject.

Rhoda Klapp
Guest
Rhoda Klapp

So you have 5 million quid to share among 12?

NDReader
Guest
NDReader

So you have 5 million quid to share among 12?
Those undergraduates trash a proton synchrotron every term, without fail.

Tommydog
Guest
Tommydog

With something of a baby bust going on in much of the west, that does mean fewer and fewer kids of college age each year. The lower grade colleges are closing in some places and the better ones can’t be as choosy as they once were. You’d think that such financial pressures would eventually press some colleges into offering more value for the buck – kicking and screaming of course about the injustice of it all, but eventually.

BlokeInTejas
Guest
BlokeInTejas

A good idea, providing source info for the numbers used.
But could the Source links be a slightly different colour??

I’ve been in software (embedded stuff) and computer/systems architecture. I think my university had a computer by the time I left, but the Physics and Maths students never saw it…

John B
Guest
John B

‘If Britain is to prosper, it needs to reduce the cost to graduates..’ Britain is an island so it cannot do anything. What you mean is taxpayers… including many young people in low paid jobs, who will not benefit from a degree or older ones without degrees who create wealth… must hand over more of their money and thereby be worse off so some can go to uni instead of having to work. If we went back to quality not quantity and only the top 5% go to university… it is not a right… then the financing problem would solve… Read more »

jwl
Guest
jwl

EconTalk – Bryan Caplan on the Case Against Education:

Caplan argues that very little learning takes place in formal education and that very little of the return to college comes from skills or knowledge that is acquired in the classroom. Schooling, he concludes, as it is currently conducted is mostly a waste of time and money. Caplan bring a great deal of evidence to support his dramatic claim and much of the conversation focuses on the challenge of measuring and observing what students actually learn.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2018/02/bryan_caplan_on_1.html

Clarissa
Guest

I graduated with a degree in Electronics and I am a web developer. What skills I learnt at university which have assisted my career where those I taught myself – a situation that has generally continued throughout the my time in the industry. As noted by the author a degree is actually completely unnecessary in this line of work: online courses or intensive classes are much more applicable, cost less and would be more appreciated (as would a github account) by employers, especially in an age where companies don’t like to take on people who need training. Universities will always… Read more »

jgh
Guest
jgh

I didn’t learn anything or do any actual real programming at my university course 1987-1990 until the final year – so I took Japanese as a sub. to keep my brain alive (and to meet Japanese girls :). But then, I (and my sixth form advisor) had made the mistake of thinking that “Computing Science” was, yerknow, actually about computers and programming and wotnot. It was only 20 years later that I discovered that I should have done Electrical Engineering. WTF???? *ELECTRICAL* Engineering???? See, that’s the problem, even now as well as back then, the universities outright lie about what… Read more »

jgh
Guest
jgh

Why do employers want to see you with a GitHub account? Why can’t they be arsed to get off their arse and actually go to my own website, as referenced and linked to in my CV and covering letters?

djc
Guest
djc

I left school with some bad A levels, didn’t retake, didn’t go to university, got a job. Three years later appointed ‘youngest ever manager’ I had to recruit staff. Staff that had been hard to recruit in the past but that year there were all too many applicants, graduates for a job that really didn’t need a degree. That year was 1976, the year when lack og ‘graduate jobs’ became a thing. And has been ever since. Those graduates of ’76 did, in the years that followed, find employment. For many, not in what they imagined was a graduate job.… Read more »

Anon
Guest
Anon

As someone who studied science – I can assure that a science degree is not worth it, even if it were free.

Gamecock
Guest
Gamecock

I studied science. Got a BS degree in biology. I wound up being a computer scientist. Would have never happened had I not had a degree.

In retirement, I am pursuing biology again, and enjoying it a lot. Especially annoying my friends with taxonomy.

“I can assure that a science degree is not worth it”

Your call, for you, only.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Anyone calculated the opportunity cost of sending millions of our yoofs to learn expensive Basket Weaving Studies degrees at Scumbag University – getting into debt and delaying family formation by years (or forever) in the process – while we have a shortage of decent plumbers, leccies, brickies, and British babies?

Ducky McDuckface
Guest
Ducky McDuckface

Don’t know, but a quick hack would be the amount you’d anticipate saving from the 3 to 4 years earnings you’d have if you didn’t go to Uni, then apply the magic of compounding to see what you’d have to be earning by, say, age thirty to achieve the same amount of savings if you did attend. This can be quite significant, and yeah, ok, interest rates (and the expectations thereof) were somewhat higher in the ’80s. But that exercise does, at least, force you to think about the level of additional earnings you’d anticipate receiving from a studying for… Read more »

Ducky McDuckface
Guest
Ducky McDuckface

Something of a related note to Steve’s opportunity cost point above; I haven’t checked recently, but the original student loans scheme seemed to have some peculiar thresholds in the repayment plans; one was when salary reached about £26/-, another was at age 32 I think. The fairly obvious ploy, for a graduate, in order to minimise the repayment amount per month, for as long as possible, was to minimise annual salary increases. One way of doing this is to avoid entering the jobs market frequently – hang on to the first or second job for as long as possible. Other… Read more »

Gamecock
Guest
Gamecock

My son will go through life as an educated man.

Will he net more money due to his having a degree? Don’t know. Don’t care.