The degree vs. apprenticeship debate is a long-running consideration for students, and is definitely a deeply personal decision that requires careful deliberation. Since I’ve been looking into the pros and cons of both since starting Year 12, I’ve been able to find advantages for both options:

Going to university:

- It’s very flexible in that you are able to pick thousands of courses in universities all over the world

- A degree will generally give you a wider range of opportunities and open-ended career options

- You’ll acquire a range of skills that are transferable to most job roles

Doing an apprenticeship

- You’ll be gaining valuable practical experience in the job

- It’s possible to earn money as you study

- You’ll be exempt from tuition fees and therefore eliminating the possibility of student debt

- It may be easier to network with future opportunities when you’re working directly in your chosen field

For me, both options have their separate benefits and are both potentially paths to prosper in; that being said, higher education appears to be the preferred route of the two, at least statistically. This is due to the fact that despite the steady rise in tuition fees in the last few decades, the number of students going into higher education is at an all-time high, as over 240,000 18 year olds in the UK were accepted into degree courses in 2017. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the attitudes towards those who choose to take a different route and enter into an apprenticeship, as it is now considered by many to be an equal equivalent to university. Since 2014, more than 52,000 were enrolled in higher or degree apprenticeships. The introduction of degree apprenticeships since September 2015 may have been an influential reason for these statistics, as they enable apprentices to achieve a full bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship, allowing students the best of both worlds.

Ultimately the decision is completely personal and subjective to individual learning styles and career ambitions. However, as my careers advisor has reminded us, that it is possible to apply for both a university degree and a higher or degree apprenticeship, so both are definitely worth looking into.

It might also be beneficial to consider that both methods of study are highly regarded by employers for the depth of knowledge and skills they provide, both academic and real-life practical experience respectively. There has been a growth in employers that offer apprenticeship schemes, as they begin to view this method of training as a viable alternative to a university degree. On the other hand, educated graduates are also in high demand and this is a trend that is predicted to remain for the foreseeable future, particularly as there are no apprenticeships on offer for those who want to go into medicine or teaching as of yet, although it may be the case that schools will be forced to introduce them due to the shortage of secondary school teachers in the UK. In regards to the former, it may be unlikely that they will introduce medicine-related apprenticeships as they would have to be equivalent to seven years in university, which would be very time-consuming and expensive for an employer or the NHS.

What is important to remember is that the decision to go into a degree or an apprenticeship is all completely dependent on the way you prefer to work, and there's no one that can decide that but you, so it’s essential to seriously weigh up both sides before making your decision. Questions that are important to ask may include, but are not limited to:

- Do you prefer to work in a classroom style environment?

- Would you respond well to lectures, essay writing, extended projects and dissertations as the primary method of learning?

- Are you prepared for the possibility of living away from home?

- Are you better at working in a practical environment e.g. developing practical skills?

- Do you have a definite idea of what career or field you want to go into?

- Would the prospect of student debt be a significant issue for you?

It's a tough choice to make, and is generally considered one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your school career as it is one of the first decisions you’ll make that will impact you into adulthood. The debate isn’t a question of which one is better than the other as both are valid and rewarding in their own merit, however it is a question of which of the two options is better for you. The best advice I received is simply to take a look at your current situation - important things to consider may be what qualifications you already have, what you'd like to study, your finances and what you'd like to do in the future. Then it’s simply a case of doing some research and choose the best option for you and your personal happiness and growth as you enter adulthood.