Higher Education

Further Education: Diversifying for Success

Online Education MOOCs

The further education sector is accepting an increasing number of people – but at what cost?

A high one, is the answer. Since the electoral victory of New Labour in 1997, the idealistic vision of everyone enjoying a university education has led to ballooning costs of tuition fees, graduates crippled by student loan debts, and budget cuts across universities.

In many right-wing sections of the media, the prevailing attitude is that universities are the home of scroungers, dossers and the workshy.

A quick Google from news headlines will introduce you to a world of the stereotypical slacker student shooting money up the wall quicker than high-powered water gun down a slip ‘n’ slide.

The reality is, as you might expect, quite different. Students have to work hard to earn their degrees – but the price of tuition fees is putting many more off.

According to the Telegraph, those who graduated in 2012 left university with an average debt of £53,330. And in an increasingly competitive workplace, many aren’t willing to spin the wheel and risk remaining out of work.

A third of graduates are in low-skilled jobs, filling roles as cleaners, retail assistants and hotel porters. Those who become successful after university understand one factor about the employment market – you need to be more diverse than a single degree will allow.

So, what can you try to make yourself more saleable in your industry? For a start, you could try a few of these things.

Head online

The internet isn’t just a place for finding dodgy citations on Wikipedia – in the education sector, it’s gained a lot of traction.

Studying for an online degree is ideal for those already in fulltime employment. You’ll be able to cram whenever you’ve got a spare half hour. What’s more, the large majority of distance-based learning qualifications are vocational, giving you a greater chance to shoot for your ideal career path.

Distance learning comes in all shapes and sizes, although we’d recommend choosing a fully-accredited, bona fide university over a free, but comparatively useless, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Although MOOCs have their uses, they won’t provide you with an accredited qualification. Use them as a taster course then move onto the real thing.

Learn a language

Britons are notorious to foreign lands for rarely bothering to learn the language of the country they’re visiting – and that prejudice is more than a stereotype.

Less than a quarter of the UK population are bilingual, favouring vague hand gestures when on holiday instead of actual language.

Learning a language, then, gives you an advantage over three-quarters of the population, piquing the interest of employers across the country.

Language apps on your phone are useful, especially the excellent DuoLingo, which prompts you to learn for 15 minutes every day until you’re a linguistic pro.

You’ll open up plenty of new opportunities for yourself if you learn a new language, especially if you’re interested in traveling to different countries for work.

So it’s time to look beyond the cost of university – and time to start learning.

M Zahid Rafiq is a professional developer and technology expert. He loves to follow technology blogs, tech news and blogging on top tech blogs.

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