‘Hire’ education and my truth about bypassing university

They say there’s no substitute for hard work, and perhaps they’re on to something, when you consider that an expert in anything was once a beginner. Surely then, learning and indeed excelling in, well….anything, is an opportunity afforded to anyone if they put their mind to it, right?

Take university for example. Much to (perhaps) the dismay of my mum, given I am the youngest of three – all of whom elected to bypass freshers’ fair frivolities, fridge politics and navigating the nocturnal nervousness of leaving yet another essay until the last minute; I didn’t go. This was a decision about nothing more than a hankering to get out in to the big bad world, perhaps underpinned by the stark realisation that I genuinely didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do back then. And the reality is, not everyone is academically driven; your calling may be more hairdresser than historian, for example; something which aligns itself more closely with what stokes that fire in your belly and gets you out of bed in the morning versus intellect and reason.

Do I feel like I missed out? Sure, on some things, and I know I would have had a wonderful time at uni. But not in the sense of leaving four years later, empowered and equipped with the knowledge that I had sufficiently secured enough experience and life skills to guarantee me a stress-free joyride through life towards (hopeful) early retirement.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire anyone with the commitment and dedication required to complete a degree or similar. But does that mean I don’t have the same levels of commitment and dedication? Of course not, it just means I didn’t have to live on baked beans and crumpets for any point in my late teens – at least not for budgeting purposes.


Is the party over?

Higher education, and more specifically fee increases, has been hitting the headlines in recent years, because higher education has simply become a commodity not afforded to some. Certainly, my mum as a single parent would have struggled with helping me manage the kind of fees and debts being accrued by students today, and may well have had to beg, borrow and steal to get me through uni (in which case I would of course have had to become a lawyer and get her out of prison – her reward for such unwavering commitment to my future success).

This brings me on to ‘hire’ education, and the alternative route to employment I undertook. Brace yourselves; I got a job. Fortunately, with a business which absolutely helped to cultivate, hone and refine the natural abilities and personal interest points that resonated with me. And I’ve (to the opinion of some), built a very stable and successful career as a result; one that continues to be underpinned by CPD and training. That said, whilst I don’t regret not going to university, I, like many, have moments of consideration in terms of what career I might do if I were to ever change jobs (an increasingly popular decision in this day and age). For starters, I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue distance-learning options through the likes of Open University, an industry-association or third party business which would enable me to retain the ability to ‘earn while I learn’.

Make no mistake, I am an advocate of university, and many of my friends would unquestionably describe university as ‘the best years of their lives’; rightly so. But in my world of full-time employment as a fresh-faced eighteen year-old in the big smoke – there was also immense learning, lifelong friendships made, many a happy hour (that I can remember), frivolous intimate encounters with strangers (should you wish to partake) and eating questionable food at obscure times of the night (usually following happy hour). Point is, I was having my own experience of the ‘best years of my life’.

So when I think of some of my friends who, armed with their degrees in criminology, aeronautical engineering or food science (now working in IT, teaching and retail, respectively), it always makes me wonder about the impact of studying something that doesn’t seek to serve your longer-term career choice.

Whatever your personal view of university may be there is no denying that living in the UK, as home to some of the leading universities in the world, represents an immense learning opportunity and one we often take for granted. Consider the plight of Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who survived an attempted murder by a Taliban gunman for speaking out for girls’ education, who recently attended her first lectures at Oxford.

Positive news then that it seems recent hikes in fact haven’t deterred people from going to university, according to the most recent set of data released by the Department for Education which reveal that half of the country is likely to study for a degree (49%); the highest on record.

Perhaps the issue then isn’t one of university itself, but in the ability to have the choice in as to whether university is the right decision, or if pursuit of your passions will take you in another direction entirely. Let’s celebrate people finding their own place in the world, on their terms, in their time.

Do something that you love, and you’ll never work a day. Of one thing I am certain….we should never stop learning.