Is it worth getting a university degree?

Depending on the environment you get up in, you may have been brought up with the idea that a university degree is an educational experience that you should definitely be aiming for. 
However, with the cost of tuition fees and accommodation, as well as being three or more years where you’re not proactively earning (or at least not earning a full-time salary), it’s reasonable for some students to question whether university is the right route for them. 
The short answer from our perspective is ‘yes’, but the really crucial part of the decision is that it’s one you make for yourself. Here we have aimed to provide guidance on the cost of a UK university career, the average salary differences between graduates and non-graduates, and some of the tangible and intangible benefits of going to university, to support you in your decision-making process.

What’s the cost of going to university in the UK?

According to an article in The Times, for UK nationals, an undergraduate degree in England and Northern Ireland currently costs up to £9,250 in tuition fees per academic year. In addition, average student’s living costs are about £810 a month (or £187 a week), according to To help cover those fees, some students can apply for a student loan of up to £9,250 to cover tuition fees. You can also apply for a maintenance loan which goes towards living costs, but is unlikely to cover them in their entirety.

How much does a graduate have to earn before paying back student debt?

That student loan can sound like a lot of debt to accrue, but repayments are designed to be supportive. 

  • You only start paying off the debt once you earn above a certain threshold. 
  • In England and Wales, that’s currently £27,295 a year before tax.
  • You repay 9% of earnings above that threshold.

What are the professional benefits of going to university? 

Obviously this depends enormously on what you want to do as a career, but in the broadest of terms, there are career benefits to going to university. 
A report from the Department for Education in 2019 showed that on average, ‘graduates earned £10,000 more than non-graduates’. It also showed that they tended to have higher employment rates as well (in 2018 87.7% of graduates are in employment compared with 71.6% of non-graduates)
Clearly, there are some jobs that simply can’t be done, or can’t be done beyond a certain level, without a particular level of education (medicine, law, engineering, for example).
graduates do enjoy salaries on the job market that are on average higher than those of non-graduates. So that’s also worth taking into consideration.

What are the personal benefits of going to university?

While the cost and earning potential of going to university is important, it’s not the only thing to consider. Going to university is an enriching time in your life for a number of reasons. It’s about studying for the joy of developing specialist knowledge, it’s about meeting people who are experts in their field, and it’s about meeting peers and learning from them as well. Who knows, there could be a future Chris Whitty in your class!
There are many personal benefits to studying at university, and no doubt you will find many more of your own, but amongst them, they include:

  • It’s a stepping stone to independence
  • You meet new people
  • You could learn technical skills
  • Broaden your mind
  • It gives you time to gain new experiences
  • It allows you space to really develop a passion for a subject
  • It allows you to discover what you want to do and prepare for your career

Discover the most valuable lessons CamVision team members learned at the University of Cambridge.