Education is partly about making a living...but it is also about those things which make life worth living.

Posted on: 18 Aug 2016
Posted by: Barnaby Lenon

As students collect their A level results, ISC Chairman Barnaby Lenon discusses the important question many of them will be asking: 'will university make me ready for work?'

A level results day is always one of the most anticipated, often stressful, but overwhelmingly exciting days in the education calendar.

With results confirmed, a huge number of young men and women will now be preparing to move out of home and into university halls.

For many, the move to higher education will have come without question, but for others the decision will have been more difficult.

With the financial cost of higher education a concern, these students will have asked themselves the simple question, 'will university make me ready for work?'.

Those who study vocational subjects like estate management, engineering, law, medicine, architecture, pharmacy or accountancy are well on their way to being ready for their chosen profession. In most cases having a degree is a pre-requisite and moving into the workplace they will have all of the required knowledge; the all-important experience will come in time.

Those who study 'useful' subjects are part-way towards being ready for work. Subjects like modern languages, physics, chemistry or maths have the potential to be very useful in a range of careers. For example, if you look in some of the big City finance firms you will find lots of physicists and mathematicians. Some universities will have enabled these students to do work experience and the knowledge will grow on-the-job.

Those who have studied highly academic subjects such as Classics, history or philosophy are also part-way towards employment if they can demonstrate they have picked up certain precise and analytical skills, such as the ability to write well, to frame arguments, or to spot small but important distinctions.

Whatever subject a student has (or hasn't) studied, employers will be looking for qualities which a university degree course does not measure directly, such as reliability, a willingness to work hard, the ability to work in or even lead a team.

These days almost all students do some work experience in the holidays in order to help them think about their possible careers and to make them a better prospect when they start applying for jobs in their final year.

It is important to emphasise, however, that going to university and achieving a degree is not only about getting a job. Many university students know that they might be better going directly into an apprenticeship or employment than going to university.

University is more than a grade at the end of three years. It is a chance to study a subject you enjoy, it is a time to grow up, the social life is amazing and the holidays are long.

Education is partly about making a living...but it is also about those things which make life worth living.

About Barnaby Lenon

Barnaby Lenon is chairman of the ISC.