Have you always wanted to go to university but thought you didn’t have the qualifications to get in? Maybe you thought you couldn’t afford it?
Meet the Teesside graduates debunking the myths – and discover the range of pathways into higher education…
Myth: You have to move away from home
While moving away for University may be something you’ve always dreamed of, for others, the thought of living away from home can be daunting, even impossible.
Truth is, there are a number of options to study right here on the doorstep – like through Middlesbrough College’s partnership with the Open University.
Sarah Longstaff, 35, from Coulby Newham, was working as a higher-level teaching assistant but wanted to progress into teaching – and with two young children and a full-time job to hold down, moving away from home wasn’t an option.
Sarah said: “I knew if I wanted to progress, I needed that higher-level qualification but I assumed it would be difficult to find something close the home – until I found out about the Early Years Professional Studies course at Middlesbrough College.
“The course was great and fitted around my work and home life – I’d definitely encourage anyone in a similar position who wants to get a degree to consider the College because the courses are so flexible.
“Now I’m on the path to something I dreamed of doing and haven’t looked back.”
In fact, the College delivers degrees that are job-focused, shorter in duration and more cost-effective for those who want to study – think of the savings on accommodation and travel expenses.
For those who want to stay close to home but don’t want to miss out on the university experience, Middlesbrough offers a vibrant student lifestyle with shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and entertainment.
Myth: University is only for ‘academic’ people
There are routes into Higher Education for anyone who wants to progress – from A Level, BTEC, Level 3 and Access to HE students to those already in employment and looking to gain a promotion.
Courses can be practical, theory-based or creative and include everything from Business Management and Childcare to Sport and Travel & Tourism.
For apprentices who prefer to take a hands-on approach, a HNC/D may be the first step to improving their qualifications.
Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Diplomas (HNDs) are vocationally orientated qualifications specifically designed to provide practical, industry related skills to both College leavers and those already working in a job who require new skills.
Typically, learners follow a three-year trajectory – starting with a one-year HNC course, moving to HND and then finally on to BEng Hons courses, awarded by the Open University.
Myth: There’s no point going into Higher Education, when I can earn just as much by getting a job now
For many, the idea of earning straight away can be attractive – and further study may just seem like a barrier.
In reality, a degree could vastly increase your earning potential and open up new opportunities to find employment. The current average graduate salary in the UK is just shy of £23,000, although this can be higher depending on your chosen industry.
And in some cases, a degree could be a deal breaker in a job application – just take 21-year-old Sam Marrs who moved from Belfast to Middlesbrough to study Music Technology. Without his degree and the ‘invaluable work experience’ he secured while studying, he may never have landed his dream job as an audio-visual engineer.
Sam said: “The College arranged a placement at Bloomberg in London, and that placement, alongside my degree is what really helped me stand out and get the job.
“The company I work for will employ people straight out of college but only part time to help them build their experience – they’d need a degree and a higher-level skillset to work with the equipment we do.
“My degree was certainly a fast track to my dream job.”
If you do want to earn while you learn, the majority of Middlesbrough College’s full-time courses are delivered over three days, alongside part time programmes, meaning students can keep their existing job or look for part-time employment.
Myth: I can’t afford Higher Education
It’s easy to be put off by the negativity around £9,000+ a year tuition fees and extortionate interest rates – however the realities of student finance are fairly stress free.
Full and part-time students can apply for a tuition loan available through the Student Loans Company. The loan is paid straight to the university and your loan repayments will only start once you are earning over £25,000 a year – and on this salary, your monthly repayment would be £30.
All full-time students are also eligible for a Maintenance Loan to help with living costs. All student loan debt is wiped after 30 years too – meaning around 80% off students won’t pay back their full loan.
Already employed? If your study relates to your job and will improve your work performance, your employer may be able to pay part or all of your fees. After all, they’ll benefit from a better qualified, more productive and motivated employee.
Myth: You have to go straight to university after College or sixth form
Cheryl Broadley, 29, from Yarm, didn’t think university was for her and decided to go travelling around Australia and Europe after college.
It wasn’t until she returned and found a job working in a sandwich shop that she realised just how valuable a degree would have been in her job hunt.
Cheryl enrolled on a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Hospitality Management at Middlesbrough College and is now forging a successful career in the hospitality industry, working as a General Manager for IHG Hotels, all while studying for a Masters degree.
She said: “Deciding to study at Middlesbrough College has changed my life.
“I was apprehensive about returning to education but the course really helped me to hit the ground running.
“I would never be where I am without my degree and the course has given me both the knowledge and the confidence to step into my dream career.
“I love it, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done!”
To find out more about higher education courses on offer at Middlesbrough College, learners can visit www.mbro.ac.uk/university-level call 01642 333333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Middlesbrough College is rated TEF Gold – a teaching excellence framework (TEF) that assesses the quality of teaching in universities in England.