Information, advice and guidance

The Hidden Benefits of Higher Education

When encouraging young people to pursue higher education, in whatever form that might be, we’re often faced with a barrage of questions asking how, and more importantly why, they should do so. Below are some key points worth mentioning.

What are the main benefits of undertaking higher education?

Higher education is hard work, as any student currently revising for summer exams will be happy (or not!) to confirm. However, the benefits of a university education are numerous, long lasting and well worth the price of admission. The primary reason most students pack their bags and head to campus is to gain a degree, whether this is a bachelor's degree in art history or a degree apprenticeship in mechanical engineering it’s this final qualification which serves as the main driving force for many students, especially during stressful periods. However upon completion and after having received their final award these students will walk away with far more than they initially thought. The transferable skills developed during this time are often just as valuable as the degree itself.

What workplace skills can students develop during their time at university?

In addition to the specific skills relating to their studies, students walk away from campus with a well-stocked toolbox of transferable skills. Problem solving skills, communication skills and team working skills are embedded into almost every course in one way or another and constitute an important part of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Higher education providers understand that the time a student spends studying is only the start of their career journey and as providers are measured on the employment outcomes of their graduates, every effort is made to supply them with the necessary competencies they need to make the leap from HE to the workplace, whatever that might be.

How these relate to opportunities on (and off) campus

However, skill development at university isn't just limited to structured course materials and activities but also found in the wide range of additional activities on offer during this time. Students can develop leadership skills by taking an active role in a society, communication skills by assisting in university open days and team working skills by signing up to a sports team. These are just some of the most obvious extracurricular activities available to students, university campuses are filled with a range of opportunities for every type of student and every potential interest. A student’s time at university is also a great opportunity to engage in events and activities off campus. Taking the time to join a professional body if you’re interested in a particular career path, undertaking an internship over Easter or summer or even pursuing existing hobbies and interests more widely. A student’s time at university is a perfect opportunity to find out what is, and isn’t, for them. Whether that’s a career, a sport or a hobby, young people's time at university is a perfect opportunity for a trial run.

How will these skills help these students be successful in their future employment?

Crucially, taking part in these activities is increasingly important due to employers in every sector looking for ways in which to differentiate applicants applying to increasingly popular graduate roles. A student who has self-selected into optional activities on top of their studies is likely to be more successful with their post-university job applications than one who hasn’t. Employers are aware of how valuable these opportunities are and understand the value they have in wider skill development. A collection of extracurricular activities allows for students to give a variety of examples highlighting their skills on an online application, it gives them more avenues for discussion at an important interview and crucially allows them to produce a more expansive and interesting CV. A qualification from a leading university combined with a batch of extracurricular experiences is a proven winning formula when putting together job applications post-university.

How can you help your students start developing these skills now?

Unfortunately, students from disadvantaged backgrounds often don't self-select and engage with these opportunities as easily as their more advantaged peers, this is often due to a ‘this isn’t for me’ mentality which takes root at a much younger age. By encouraging students to get involved in optional events and activities before they start their studies we can ensure students arrive on campus eager to engage with, and enjoy, the wealth of opportunities open to them right from day one.


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