Degree or Not Degree? That Is The Question…



As I approach the end of my first year at university, and the final year of cheaper university fees (around £3000 as opposed to around £9000) the question of how valuable a degree is nowadays continues to linger in my mind. The debate was brought up once again in the free London magazine Stylist – Emma Watson recently declared that she will be “taking a bit of time off” from her degree at Brown University to focus on professional and acting projects, and this apparently divided her fans on whether she should ‘set an example by sticking to her studies’.

Before I came to university, I had spent a year out of education earning my own money and saving a huge part of it to travel around the world for three months. I also carried out little bits of work experience here and there and I certainly felt a sense of independence and freedom from education that I hadn’t felt before. The looming prospect of university in the coming October was something I didn’t want to think about – at that point, university was the last place I wanted to go. I wasn’t sure English Literature was really what I wanted to study and for some silly reason I didn’t want to be in the North of England. However, it wasn’t that simple. At that point in my life, while carrying out bits and bobs of journalistic work experience, all I was told was that I had to have a degree to even think about getting a job on a magazine.

It was disheartening. In the past, as we all know, you could start off making cups of tea, running errands and slowly but surely work your way up to dibs and dabs of writing and then, hopefully – miraculously – one day land a proper job on a magazine or newspaper. I was told that this just didn’t happen anymore. Instead, I needed to go and get a good degree and then carry out copious amounts of work experience. Okay, I thought. Then that is what I shall do.

It was, again, a little disappointing when I was recently told at a Journalism and PR event at my university that degrees aren’t enough anymore. I will most likely need to get an NCTJ qualification (National Council for the Training of Journalists) – which teaches shorthand among other things – after I have left university. That’s an added cost of a few thousand pounds – – and then I wonder, really, just how valuable my original degree is going to be.

I believe that a degree is not the key to success. Although I also believe that with many prestigious jobs it’s who you know, not what you know. And degree, or no degree, that is something you are either going to have at your finger tips or you’re not. It’s all about contacts with most jobs. I came to university because I didn’t really have many other options. I wasn’t sure what direction I was really headed. Yes I could have stayed in my small village and tried to get work on newspapers, but at that time in my life I was being told ‘no – go and get a degree and come back’. Now I am being told ‘no – go and get an NCTJ qualification and come back’. I wanted to go somewhere different, experience something different and meet different people. And I am so glad I did.

There is the argument of wasted money and degrees that could be cut down to two years instead of three – and I do agree with those arguments. However, I don’t agree with the backlash against people choosing to come to university instead of trying to find work elsewhere. I worked extremely hard to get into the university I am at and I truly hope that the people I meet here will help me somehow in later life. Many of them have weird and wonderful families and backgrounds and one of them may just be a great contact I need in later life. I feel privileged to come to university. I have the ability to study things that I truly enjoy – I have come to realise why I chose English Literature – and have met wonderful people. Importantly, I have moved away from home and grown up tremendously.

For many, university isn’t the answer and I totally get that. For a long time I didn’t think it was for me, either. If you have the passion and the drive and the contacts to get you where you want to be, then a degree is unnecessary. However, if you’re unsure of what you want to do and are intelligent and love to study a certain subject, then university is the perfect place to let those passions blossom and to join societies to try and hone those passions. For me, there is no place like it. One day I will have to leave and properly grow up – get a proper job and stop drinking quite as much. But for now, this is home.