Alternatives to University

Feature from NXG’s Jan/Feb issue

If there was ever a time not to go to university, then now is it. Don’t get me wrong, university is amazing and I had the time of my life there, but it’s not for everybody. More and more people are looking for alternatives since the government announced that it is planning to take the cap off tuition fees.

Currently university students pay just over £3,000 a year for their degree. The government has said that this will go up to £6,00 with an upper tier of £9,000.With the very real possibility that students could face a debt of up to £30,000 upon graduating it’s not surprising that many have shunned the idea.

If you are amongst those who have decided you simply cannot afford to go on to higher education then do not fear, NXG have some alternatives for you…


Internships are a great way to get some experience in your chosen field. Even if you did go to university you wouldn’t get very far without doing one or two of these, particularly if you’re planning to get into journalism, film, graphics or architecture.

Mostly internships are unpaid, so do not have any aspirations that you will get rich doing one. It is not all dark and gloomy though – more often that not you will get reimbursed for travel and lunch.

The real value of an internship is not the money though it is the experience. You will learn things that could either make you more determined, or put you off the industry entirely.

You will either work your butt off doing all the jobs that no one else wants to do and be really bored, or you will get to do loads of cool stuff that will plump out your portfolio nicely. Just so you know, in the four internships I have done, I have never been asked to do the coffee run.


Apprenticeships are somewhat similar to internships in the sense that you learn in the field, but you also combine working with a qualification. Most commonly you would be doing an NVQ, which you would gain through a college.

Apprenticeships are a great way to get that experience you need to go further in your career as well as getting a qualification. They are perfect for people who just cannot stand academia.

There are a whole load of different trades you could learn, ranging from beauty to media, building to plumbing. Oh, and did I mention – you get paid.

Start your own business

Perhaps you have a real problem with authority and people telling you what to do. How about you become your own boss? It’s not as crazy as it sounds; plenty of people become an entrepreneur at a young age. Just look at Stuart Baggs on this year’s Apprentice. At the tender age of 21 he was earning millions through his own businesses.

So if you’ve got a business idea (don’t worry if it is not amazingly flashy, Sir Sugar started his career selling cardboard boxes) your next step could be to get in touch with the Prince’s Trust or Shell Livewire. They will not only advise you on how to do it, but they also offer grants and loans if you are unemployed, disadvantaged and under 30.

Work your way up

As opposed to going to university, getting your bachelor’s and then going more or less instantly (with a very good bachelors) into a good job – why not work your way up?

It is not ideal, but we are not suggesting you become a bin man or a cleaner. Have a think about what it is you want to do and then just go for it. For example, if you want to become a director then get a job as a runner or on reception at a studio.

Once you have settled in you can start networking and letting people know your interests. With determination and optimism you will soon start climbing the ladder…

Of course if all this fails (which is highly unlikely) then you can always wait for the tuition fees to go back down, or maybe take a gap year and come back to it.


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