Figures published today by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) show that in three-quarters of cases Scottish school leavers had not discussed alternatives to university with their school or career advice service. Meaning thousands of students could be sleep-walking in to more than £30,000 of debt because they are unaware of the possible alternatives.
Craig Vickery, head of ACCA Scotland: 'Clearly there has been a severe breakdown in the communication of careers’ advice to students. It is distressing to see that thousands of students are not receiving information about the full range of options available following their Highers. For some university can be a hugely beneficial part of life – learning to live independently, managing your own money and being responsible for you own choices – but it is not the only route students can take.
'There may be no tuition fees for students to worry about, but there are still other costs: food, rent, study materials and socialising for example. Figures show that this can amount to as much as £30,000 over the four years of a degree course. It’s important that students, parents and careers advisers have a conversation about whether university is right for them. Many professions such as accountancy don’t require a degree to enter. You can start earning and learning straight after you finish school.'
ACCA also found that the overwhelming reason for parents encouraging their children to go to university is for better career prospects. In Scotland 76% of parents surveyed said that they believed having a degree would give their children better career prospects but that is not always the case.
Vickery continued: 'We know that in the current economic climate having a degree is no guarantee of securing employment, and the longer it takes a graduate to secure a job the longer the student debt will take to pay off. While a degree is still the prestigious choice for parents when it comes to their children, there needs to be more understanding that alternatives to university can lead to better employment prospects. ACCA has joined together with a range of professional organisations and would be happy to provide information to school and careers advisors on the alternatives to university.'
ACCA and other professional bodies in the UK have joined up to launch the first ever Professions Week, which will run from 21-27 October 2013. The aim of the initiative is to increase awareness for the range and variety of potential employment options the professions have to offer.
The survey generated responses from 1,003 parents of 15-18 year olds in the UK.