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Is university worth it?

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Whether you’re studying at school or college, considering returning to education, or looking for your next steps, making the choice to go to university is a big decision. A lot of prospective students find themselves asking whether they should even go to university, or if it’s more worthwhile to pursue options such as college or a degree apprenticeship.

We’re taking a look at some of the things to consider when asking yourself the question: is university really worth it? And if you do decide to go to university, how you can make the most out of the experience so it feels fully worthwhile to you.

graduate looking right

Is university the right choice for me?

It’s important to consider if the university experience is right for you. Self-motivation is a highly important factor as you’ll be expected to do lots of individual study, and assignment deadlines are usually set.

Different universities will take different approaches to delivering their courses, meaning that if you do choose to go university, you can find an institution that will deliver learning in the way you’ll benefit the most. While still delivering traditional learning through lectures and seminars, many universities now prioritise and embed practical experience within their teaching to prepare you for life after graduation. 

At Sunderland, we ensure that throughout your studies you’ll explore different areas of the industry you’re interested in, through placements, research, contemporary teaching, volunteer opportunities and even sandwich years. This enables you to confidently select a career path, as well as build up your network and make useful contacts in different industries. We also have a dedicated careers team and employability hub who can offer advice, even after you graduate.

Furthermore, universities often have structured progression programmes that guide you from undergraduate studies through to full degree courses and even postgraduate options, which can further enhance your employability. Many institutions, including Sunderland, offer discounts for alumni, making continued education more affordable. 

a wide shot of psychology students in the murray health ICT skills lab using the computers

Do I need to go to university?

While the employment landscape has changed to allow more diverse options for people looking to embark on their chosen career path, a lot of fields still require a degree as a base level to get into their profession, including lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers. 

Even for other careers, a university degree can enhance your employability, as the employment market is highly competitive and employers are often looking for an application with an edge. You might find that holding a degree enables you to apply for more specialised roles.

Furthermore, with the current cost of living crisis, it’s been suggested that a university degree can also help with job security. Research from Universities UK suggests that: 

  • 73% of UK graduates say they found a job reflective of their ambitions in under a year, thanks to their university education
  • 64% say that during the cost of living crisis, going to university has improved their job security
  • 78% of UK graduates say the support they received at university helped them gain employment.

If you’re interested in learning more about navigating the cost of living crisis while at university, we have a guide on the cost of accommodation, travel, food and more in Sunderland.

"For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to grow up and become a ‘scientist’ and going to university to study a science course was a way to do that [...] the University has had such a massive impact on my life. It has allowed me to gain so many excellent qualities which I’ll carry with me for my entire life. I’ve grown in confidence and the opportunities Sunderland has provided allowed for this growth to happen”

Curtis Noon, BSc (Hons) Biopharmaceutical Science student.

How much does it cost to go to university in the UK?

Tuition fees for full-time students in 2024/2025 are £9,250 per year for undergraduate degrees and top-up degrees. For international students, this is slightly more at £16,000 per year. Find out more information about tuition fees

The cost of university is arguably what deters many prospective students, but the benefit of obtaining a degree is in the long term prospects it can provide. According to the most recent UK Government Graduate labour market statistics report, graduates continue to have higher employment rates and average salaries compared to non-graduates, and this is a significant factor for many when considering whether to undertake a degree qualification. 

Many UK students fund their education at both university and college through student loans that are only repayable when you’re earning over a certain salary threshold.

Additionally, universities and colleges will offer further financial support to their students. Sunderland has a range of scholarships and bursaries to support you during your time at university.

Is it worth moving away for university?

Attending university has often been associated with leaving home for student accommodation in a new city, which can make staying at home to attend college a preferable option. However, there are more options than ever to tailor your university experience to best suit you.

You can choose to stay home for university, such as if you’re local to Sunderland which can save you money on accommodation costs by allowing you to commute instead. Furthermore, you also don’t have to study full-time if this doesn’t work with your prior commitments, as flexibility in study options is a crucial advantage of attending university. Universities offer part-time courses and distance learning courses, allowing you to balance your studies with work or other commitments. Additionally, many universities provide Integrated Foundation Year (IFY) courses to help you transition into degree courses. 

You can also fully immerse yourself in university life through choosing to stay in university accommodation. For many, university is a huge step towards independence, confidence, making lifelong friends and learning those all-important transferable skills that employers value. The north-east is also one of the most affordable places to live in the UK, meaning our students can get the most out of their degrees. Read more about the cost of living in Sunderland.

Students enjoying fish and chips at the beach

What other options are there?

If you decide that university is not the right choice for you, there are a multitude of other options available to you. Free resources such as the National Careers Service can help you identify the steps you’d need to take to get into your chosen field. An increasingly growing number of students are opting to work and study via a Degree Apprenticeship, which combines working and earning money whilst still studying part-time towards a formal qualification. 

You may also choose to work straight after school or college, choosing an entry level position and working your way up as your career progresses. University is something that you may choose to pursue further into your career once you’ve developed an idea of the area you’d like to specialise in.

How do I know which university is right for me?

Once you’ve made a choice as to whether university is the best next step for you, you’ll need to consider what subject you’d like to study. Your options can seem endless, and you’ll find hundreds of courses to consider, so research course content carefully when you’re looking at your options. The next key step to take is to sign up to an Open Day.

Attending an Open Day means you’ll get a real feel for the university and campus, plus you’ll also get a taster of the subject you’re interested in. This is also the best opportunity you’ll have to ask all of your questions, and you should come away from the day with a better understanding of the course and the university itself.

Students outside CitySpace


While university isn’t for everyone, we hope we’ve shown you some of the benefits of attending university, and why it’s still worth it. There are many ways to tailor your university experience to suit you to make sure you get the most out of the time obtaining your degree, and that prepares you for your future. 

You can find out more about the courses we offer at the University of Sunderland by visiting the relevant subject areas, and hearing from our current students. You can also book on to an Open Day and experience our city by the sea for yourself.

Published: 28 June 2024