ZELLA COMPTON: Think hard: is it really worth going to uni?

Sian Crips, Georgia Perry and Abi Robinson, from Oaklands School, Waterlooville, celebrating their A-level results. Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-170817-140116006
Sian Crips, Georgia Perry and Abi Robinson, from Oaklands School, Waterlooville, celebrating their A-level results. Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-170817-140116006
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Last week the A-level results came out to a frenzied chorus of cheering or gnashing of teeth. It was accompanied by middle-aged people debating what the results mean today.

With the addition of stars, system changes and mark-ups, are they really compatible with ‘our’ exams?

We must bore the pants off teenagers with our reflective backchat, not one of us realising it’s not about us any more.

What’s certain is the number of applications to universities is dropping. And I’m not surprised.

Today’s teenagers are more savvy than any other generation. They have up-to-date information about universities, courses and the type of job they’ll get at the end. So, as consumers they’re asking, is it worth it?

Universities’ bellies are opened on the internet, the courses they offer, and the ways they teach them dissected. It takes minutes to find a current crop of students offering real, and potentially damning, advice.

And with the cost being so high, arguing that it’s worth it ‘for the university experience’ is not enough. You can spend £40,000 in many creative ways and get loads of new experiences around the world instead.

Yes, there are many other arguments why university numbers are dropping. There are fewer 18-year-olds; Brexit and the uncertainty it brings; the ability to shop around, and the ability to do ‘other things’.

It’s the ‘other things’ I’m interested in. Apprenticeships with glossy adverts and glossy outcomes. Why bother spending £40,000 on an education when your mate down the road is learning on the job, and getting paid? Both of you will end up with a compatible wage.

As an ex-lecturer I think it’s important students find their passion before investing in higher education. Don’t go just because everyone else is. Wonderfully, teenagers are more sensible than many of us ever were about making decisions to do what’s right for them, rather than what’s right now.

Go to university because it calls to your soul, or it’s the only way to get where you want to be, not because it’ll fill a few years before you have to make a decision.


The USS Indianapolis has been found. This is the ship which was torpedoed at the end of the Second World War after delivering parts for the nuclear bomb for Hiroshima.

It’s particularly famous – if that is the right word and I’m not sure that it is – for the number of men who died in the water from dehydration, or being eaten by sharks. The stories from survivors are horrific.

As the ship sank so quickly there was no time to prepare for what was to come, or to send out a distress signal.

There are quite a few films about what happened, and the infamous reference to the event in Jaws.

It’s truly an horrendous yet brave story and one well worth the time to research further if you are interested in history.


Who would you put your money on in a fight, Stephen Hawking or Jeremy Hunt?

On the surface it’s a grim but simple answer.

But actually, my money is on Stephen Hawking who is nothing less than a national treasure.

And when he says ‘this is how it is’ in relation to the NHS, evidence and cherry-picking data, I am much more inclined to believe him than Jeremy Hunt whose name is synonymous with a rather rude swearword and also with destroying pretty much everything that he touches.

Hawking says that we need to save the NHS because it’s being torn apart.

Hunt disagrees.

My money is on Hawking, and if he doesn’t win with evidence, brain power, or words, what’s left?