The perennial issue of the rewards of being a graduate has come up again, triggered by new research commissioned by Universities UK. The focus is on increased earnings, whilst acknowledging that ‘the vast majority of graduates donâ€™t measure the value of their degrees in purely economic terms.’ I suppose I must be one of those. As an art student in the early 1980s, I actually assumed I would be unemployable and have been pleasantly surprised ever since at various organisations’ willingness to give me work. The ‘value’ of the experience was in learning to think and be creative, acquiring the confidence that comes with meeting adult expectations, doing some ‘rite of passage’ stuff (which I’ll leave to your imagination), and generally stretching my horizons. This ‘investment’ has been paying interest ever since.
Higher education was ‘free to the end user’ in those days. In fact, we got grants. And you could claim dole in the holidays. And if you worked, your pay was tax free. And the banks gave you free Sony Walkmen the size of housebricks if you opened an account. (Older students thought we were a lot worse off than in their day, when they really had some perks.) So it was easier not to think of the decision to study in financial terms I suppose.
Nevertheless there is something unique about the university experience that should make it one of the things to do before you die, like swimming with dolphins only dryer (most of the time.)