plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

July 7, 2008

what do you think of your higher education?

Filed under: education and career — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

The city that I live in has a university. Actually, it has more than one, and I think it has a couple of university colleges as well. This means that most of the year there are students about, both in the two main student ghettos and sometimes in the city centre as well.

Now that it’s been a couple of years (oh, ok then a little more than a couple) since I graduated from university, I quite like it when the summer comes around and the student population disappears somewhat. But, it got me thinking about the value of a degree.

First of all, I think I need to give some cultural background for any non-English people. In England (and Wales, but not Scotland) a typical bachelors degree takes 3 years to complete, focuses on one or two subjects without any general education requirements (I took my last English class at the age of 16). Across the UK about 40% of 18 year olds go into higher education, and due to the way that it’s funded, the vast majority of people (traditional and mature students) study full-time and don’t take a breaks in between.

If I had to do it again, I would do it the same way. I have a maths degree, I’d wanted to study maths for a long time, and I enjoyed it. Writing proofs and carrying out rigorous analysis has scarred me for life improved me. I studied about the right amount – if I’d worked harder I wouldn’t have got better grades. I partied about the right amount, within the bounds of money, time and 9 o’clock lectures.

As it turns out, financially speaking, my degree has been useful, and was the passport to the career that I have. Without it, I wouldn’t be on anywhere near the salary that I have. I’ll be paying off the student loans for about another ten years I think, but they are pegged at inflation, so it’s not a biggie. I could have been much more frugal, but being a student also gave me the time (in the summer) to seek out new horizons. I worked as a ride attendant at a theme park, spent a summer as an exchange student worker in an American beach resort, and travelled around the world.

I strongly value education, and I’d love to go back to university at some point and do an arts/humanities degree – properly, even doing all the extra reading. But, at this point in my career, more education isn’t something I’m in a position to pursue, British universities (apart from the Open University) aren’t that well set up for flexible learning, and in any case I don’t really have the time.

I’d like to know what your experiences were or are with higher education. Did you go to uni? Have you found it useful? If you could go back would you do it differently? Do you want to resume your education? And, if you’re a student, are you enjoying it?

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