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Not going to uni – alternatives to university education

15 August 2017

Earlier this year, UCAS revealed that the number of applications for UK university courses starting this September have dropped by 5%, which is hardly surprising given the fact that the average graduate leaves university with an eye-watering debt of £44,000.

With the prospect of carrying this debt into their 50s, many young people are finding the decision to embark on a university degree increasingly difficult to justify, particularly with so many alternatives available with little or no associated debt.

Here are just some of the options available for a young person looking to start a professional career in Gloucestershire:

Higher Apprenticeships

Becoming an apprentice gives you the chance to gain practical workplace experience from an employer, while working towards a qualification and of course, getting paid.

Higher Apprenticeships take a minimum of two years to complete and lead to qualifications ranging from Level 4 (equivalent to a Higher National Diploma or Foundation Degree) to Level 6 (equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree).

Gloucestershire College offers higher apprenticeships with a range of employers in the county, across a growing range of sectors. These include, engineering, accounting, cyber security, business and professional administration, leadership and management, and software, web and systems development.

Emily Large is completing a Level 6 Apprenticeship in Engineering with GE Aviation and Gloucestershire College. She says:

“Before I joined GE I studied A Levels at college. I wasn’t exactly the best at exams, so an apprenticeship suited me because all of the learning is based around the work and examined by evidence of your practical work.

As part of the apprenticeship at GE we do rotations around the business to give us little tasters of the hardware, software and systems parts of the business and different projects. The best thing about doing a higher apprenticeship is that not only are you getting to learn in a university environment, but you’re also gaining the industry experience employers look for.”

Higher Education at College

For those who don’t want to miss out on the student lifestyle, taking a higher education course at college could be the right move. Gloucestershire College offers higher education courses ranging from HNC and HND qualifications, to Foundation Degrees and even Bachelor Degrees. Many students choose to complete all or part of their higher education with a college because of the flexible study options available and typically lower course fees than university.

And studying at college needn’t mean missing out on the experience of being a student! Gloucestershire College boasts modern, spacious facilities including a dedicated higher education study space, as well as a Students’ Union which organises regular social events and an annual Freshers’ Fayre. Just like uni, the College will be accepting late HE applicants through the UCAS Clearing system. Find out more at:


If you’ve got a great idea and a determination to succeed, setting up on your own could be an option. And with one in seven people in employment in the UK actually their own boss, self-employment is not an unrealistic alternative to university.

The perks are obvious, freedom over your working hours and holidays, no one to answer to and the chance to pursue an occupation that you enjoy and can reap the benefits from if it succeeds.

Setting up your own business can however be extremely stressful when things aren’t working out the way you planned and all responsibility falls on you. Even the most inspired and innovative businesses can and have flopped without a structured business plan, accurate account-keeping and a good marketing strategy.

If going it alone appeals to you, Gloucestershire College can get you started in the right direction, with its ‘Steps to setting up your own business’ seven week evening course.  Covering topics like developing a business plan, calculating start-up costs, using social media and marketing, the course is essential for those who want to develop an idea into a successful business. Find out more here.

If you’re struggling to decide what to do after your A Level results, Gloucestershire College will be open for one-to-one advice on Friday 18 August. Drop in to any of the College’s three campuses from 10am to 4pm to talk to a member of the GC Advice Team and find out about higher education at GC.

Why Gloucestershire College?

We have a lot of experience offering Apprenticeships and work-related training. We have industry-standard facilities and experienced teaching staff which provide the ideal complement to work-based learning.

We are here to help

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90% of students would recommend GC and 95% said that the teaching on their course was good.

Ofsted has rated us good.

  • We offer industry relevant facilities
  • Our lecturers are passionate subject specialists
  • Employers value our students' skills

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