University has traditionally been a privilege reserved for a select demographic, as recent news about Oxford and Cambridge proves. Last week, The Times reported that the prestigious universities’ recruitment of more state pupils led to private-school parents claiming their children are being edged out by “social engineering”. (Which sounds a wee bit contradictory, right?)
But, with a record number of students now securing a place at university, things are starting to change. The largest ever proportion of 18 year olds got a place at university in 2017, with just under 50% of people under 30 entering advanced studies in the same year.
The recent State of the Nation report showed that increasing numbers of students from low income families are entering university – which means the playing field is slowly levelling out. And a study from last year reported that women with a degree earn 28% more than non-graduates by the time they’re 29, suggesting that having a degree makes you financially better off down the line.
In a nutshell: university is sold to us as a very good thing.
However, the reasons many people still do not enrol onto higher education are plentiful. For starters, the average UK student now picks up their certificate after accruing a debt of £50,800. And, with more peers to stand out against than ever before, it cannot be a coincidence that the number of students who disclosed a mental health condition to their university in 2016 was five times higher than a decade ago. Oh, and let’s not forget the cultural barriers and isolation that many experience.
With so many valid reasons for people not going to university, it’s important to remember that having a degree doesn’t define who we are or dictate our self-worth.
Loose Women panellist Stacey Solomon perfectly articulated this on Wednesday’s (15 May) episode, saying: “I 100% agree that there will be so many incredible things that will come out of getting a higher education and going to university. But, for one – it isn’t accessible to everybody, so it’s not always an option.” She continued: “For two, I just don’t think that it’s imperative. I don’t feel any less of a person or any less broad or any less able to do a job because I haven’t been to university.”
One viewer took it upon himself to judge Solomon’s comments.
“Not being funny here! but I really doubt Stacey could have gotten into a university,” he wrote on Twitter. “And truth be told if it wasn’t for a lucky Break on X Factor, then she’d probably still be working in a cafe (nothing wrong with cafe work), but she certainly wouldn’t have the same money.”
It’s worth noting here that Stacey, who has an incredible talent for singing, has carved a lucrative and respectable TV career - all while looking after her two sons. She’s also one of the most likeable personalities on screen, and constantly uses her platform to champion women and mothers.
So, Solomon gave a superb response. “I have a national diploma equivalent to 3 As at A-level & could have gone to university, if I could afford it. I’m an intelligent capable human,” she wrote. “Your opinion demonstrates a lack of education and ability to see past stereotypical traits in a human that society deems unintelligent.”
We couldn’t have put it any better than that.