My A-level results day almost passed me by. It took an early morning email from an editor asking for a piece about the experience for me to remember. After a few clicks – no daunting brown envelope nowadays – I’d discovered my reasonably average grades and continued with my day. No need for celebration, but no sense of disaster, either.
Towards the end my first year at college, there came a point in time when I had to make a decision. I knew where I wanted to get to; I had dreamed of being a journalist since I was first allowed to stay up and watch the News at Ten as a kid. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was how to get there.
If I was a year older, I would probably have been asking myself which degree to choose. But just a few months after I started college, the coalition announced its shake-up of tuition fees. This triggered a different question – do I need a degree at all? Regardless of whether you think the policy was financial necessity for a hard-up Government or an unfair burden on future graduates, nobody can deny the impact it has had on the way sixth form students make their choices.
I got in touch with dozens of journalists. Some I knew, some I merely knew of. I wanted to know whether a degree was indispensable to get ahead in the news industry – and the overall response was a curious mix. For every advisory who said I’d need to be a graduate to even get a by-line, another said it didn’t matter in the slightest. The day I left college, I went freelance.
The rest, as they say, is history. After a few months of writing commentaries and blogs, I was hired by First News, a national youth newspaper. Twelve months on, I feel incredibly privileged to be where I am today. I’ve been sent to the United Nations and Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as well as covering the Budget and conference season. I’ve interviewed members of both front benches and, most recently, spoke to Gordon Brown in New York.
My choice to jump into a career and avoid university was, admittedly, initially just as much down to impatience as anything else. I certainly wouldn’t be in the exciting job that I have today if I had gone the other way. I don’t doubt that university is the ideal route for some – it just wasn’t for me. It was definitely a risk, but I wasn’t the only one to take it.
A lot has been made of the annual application and admission statistics since the fees were initially increased. Today’s acceptance figures show a 9 per cent year-on-year rise. But facts and figures don’t quite show the drastic change in culture that took place almost three years ago.
There had been an assumption among most sixth form pupils that university was the natural conclusion to the educational process. I would question to what extent it still exists today.
Callum Jones is a Reporter for First News. You can follow him on twitter @CallumIJones.Tags: A-Levels, Journalism, Universities