Are you wondering whether higher education is for you?  

Higher education refers to post-18 education, where you study towards a level 4 or above qualification such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND), a foundation degree, an undergraduate degree or a higher/degree apprenticeship! 

The two main post-18 routes are an undergraduate course at university or studying towards a higher/degree apprenticeship. I will help you decide what route is best for you by looking at the pros and cons of each! 

Both a degree apprenticeship and university can give you a degree qualification (a level 6 higher education certificate). Having a degree massively increases your annual salary!  On average, someone of working age without a degree is making £27,000 a year over their working-age career; this is a great wage. However, when you have a degree, your value massively increases because of all the skills and expertise your education has helped you to develop. So on average, someone of working age with a degree is making about £34,000 a year (whole working-age career). (Source: GOV.UK: Graduate labour market statistics) This is a whopping £11,500 more a year than someone without a degree. Of course, money should not ever be the sole incentive, but it’s a good example. Those people are earning more because they are more skilled and therefore the pool of jobs, they are applying for increases massively.


At university you will study for an undergraduate degree, where you will achieve a ‘bachelor’s degree’ or degree certificate. Bachelor degrees take 3-4 years if studied full-time (longer if part-time). You normally study a single subject but can combine two or more subjects, called a dual honours. You can choose to do a year abroad or a year in industry, during your degree, which can help broaden your horizons and get you valuable experience! If you miss the entry requirements for your course, some courses allow you to complete a foundation year (an extra year), to help you catch up to the level of study. 

The benefits of university include:  

  • They are widely valued by employers due to the transferable skills you’ll develop and are required for certain careers such as a lawyer or doctor. 
  • You’ll gain specialist knowledge in an area you are interested in. 
  • You’ll have the opportunity to join clubs and societies, whether you’re keeping up your hobbies or trying something new!  
  • You’ll also gain independence and learn life skills 
  • You’ll get to make loads of new friends from all over the world!    

One of the downsides of university is having to repay the money borrowed to cover tuition and living costs, known as student loans. However, many students never fully pay it back, as you have to earn a certain amount, called the threshold (£25,000 as of 2023 entry) and only pay 9% over the threshold, so it’s in manageable payment instalments. 

For up-to-date student loan prepayment plans, see here: student loan repayments

Degree apprenticeships 

An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to work and get paid, whilst studying towards a qualification. They normally take around 3-6 years to complete and you will typically complete 80% paid work and 20% study at a university, college, or other provider. Apprenticeships are a great opportunity to learn about a specific area of work that you are interested in, while earning a wage. 

The benefits of an apprenticeship: 

  • You gain valuable work-experience which helps provide you with good career prospects. 
  • There’s potential for a promotion with your apprentice provider to a full-time job there on completion.  
  • You get paid a wage – this will be at least the national apprenticeship minimum wage. This includes holiday and sickness pay. 
  • A lot of employers provide additional benefits, such as discounts, health/eye care etc. as well as social events with other colleagues.  
  • You don’t have any student loans to repay as your qualification is paid for. 

To be an apprentice you do have to meet the specific criteria; typically, apprenticeships are only on offer to those aged 16-24, living in England and not in full-time education. They also lead directly into a job, so are designed for students who know what career they want. Being an apprentice is not easy, you will have the equivalent to a full-time job, which means you will have a greater responsibility. 

Why not check out our university and apprenticeship guides on our website for more information 👉 Young People – Hello Future 

If you have any question about university or apprenticeships then get in touch 👇