Share this content

Was it worth going to university?

Was it worth going to university?

Didn't find your answer?

Marks Sattin research has found that more than a third of accountants wouldn't have gone to university today.

If faced with today’s costs, only 40% of accountancy and finance professionals would have gone to university.

The coalition’s increase of university tuition fees to £9,000 per year means the cost of doing a three year course – including fees, loans and the opportunity cost of not being in work – now stands at £88,700.

When accountancy and finance recruiter Marks Sattin asked 409 accountants whether they would have chosen to go to university if it had cost as much as it does today, only 40% said they would.

Currently, new accountancy and finance graduates earn an average salary of just under £25,000, which means it would take more than three and a half years to earn enough to cover the cost of their higher education.

Was it worth going?

Replies (18)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Image is of a pin up style woman in a red dress with some of her skirt caught in the filing cabinet. She looks surprised.
By Monsoon
22nd Jun 2011 18:28


My degree got me an exemption from level 2 of AAT (big deal!). Other than that, work wise it's been eminently useless.

I still would have gone though, for the experience. I was lucky enough not to need a student loan so I'm not in debt. And, at the time, I didn't have a clue what I'd want to do as a career (my degree was in the arts); had I known I wanted to be an accountant (oh how my younger self laughs) I may not have gone, but that's a big what-if!

For those wanting to work for themselves or not interested in jobs with the major firms, I think being a graduate is less important and having professional qualifications and experience is far more relevant.

Thanks (0)
By DBlood
22nd Jun 2011 18:47

The system needs to be overhauled first.

A University education is of value, BUT, only if in a relevent discipline.

Too many go to University with unrealistic ideas of where it may lead them (or indeed no idea at all), and sadly our universities continue to offer degrees in useless subjects.  Whilst they should offer degrees in the sciences, mathematics, law, business management and the like, it is, in my opinion, time that we reduced the number of universities, reduced the number of places available, and scrapped the pointless useless courses such as "media studies", "sociology" etc.

Perhaps also a return to what was common practice 40 years ago might be useful, where firms paid for employees to attend the local colledge of further education one day a week to study towards specific work related qualifications - qualifications measured by proper examinations, not todays dumbed down apologies for exams.  


Thanks (0)
By Ken Howard
22nd Jun 2011 20:46

Even relevant degrees are not that useful either.
When employed in a management capacity and dealing with recruitment, I was aghast at just how little of the degree studies was relevant to the job.

A couple of times, we had business studies graduates where the degree had included accounts, but the graduates had never studied basic double entry book-keeping which I found extraordinary considering that the module claimed to include interpretation of financial statements. I never did work out how on earth you can interpret and understand accounts if you don't understand basic book-keeping principles.

Even with graduates who had studied an accountancy degree had to be extensively trained in house before they could be let loose on simple corner shop accounts.

From what I've seen over 30 years, I'm not impressed. Given that you can qualified as chartered or certified without a degree, I'd say it would be better to get a trainee job upon leaving school with A Levels and cut out the costly and potentially wasted 3 years at uni.

Thanks (0)
By memyself-eye
22nd Jun 2011 20:46

I was too thick...

or too stupid to go to 'uni' - probably too stupid as it was free in the seventies.

One of my sons did, recently, and now works for minimum wage at the Co-Op. So the answer is no. I balme Gordon Brown I do. There agian I blame Gordon Brown for everthing...

PS said son is also a retained fireman and gets, believe it or not, a final salary pension.

Thanks (0)
By FirstTab
22nd Jun 2011 21:04

OU MBA with accountancy qualification far better

I went to university. I did not enjoy it. I fail to understand why we have 3 year degrees when it can be done in half the time.

I suggest people get into world of work asap and do OU degree and/or MBA. This is  far better, unless someones wants to study science subjects.

If I could turn the clock back, I would not go to Uni. After A levels I would study for accountrancy. Gain 5 to 8 years experience then study for OU MBA. Then leave my job and start on my own.

Degree are producing people who tend to big headed (I was one!) who expect their degree is worth more than hard experience.

MBA I did whilst I was working has been more help to me than anything else I have studied.

Thanks (0)
Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
22nd Jun 2011 21:11

Salary of £25,000


Yes Uni is worth it. 

I am not sure what is wrong with a graduate earning £25,000 for their first few years .   University gives you the skills to move on in your career later in life.  Whether you set up a business or work for someone.   

In the real world graduates have to learn how to work in an office and gain work experience  like learning to answer the phone correctly and how to work a photocopier correctly  .   How to work with people and engage with other office workers .  I have seen a lot of Graduates struggle with this at the beginning .  Why should an employer pay £25k I would actually pay them less  till they had the work experience.  As I think it is insulting to the other members of the workforce when they have not got the experience.

Once a graduate does this.  It is then the Skills from University get used, and generally you can see a good graduate shine through and it is lovely to see, and also great to work with someone who uses those skills and  not just for accountancy or the subject studied. It is the broader sense from the inter action of minds that you meet in college and learn. 

Yes university is worth it , but you also have to learn life skills at work before you can move on.   Uni is part of maturing and education should not only be seen as a commodity for your Salary, but a life skill towards your happiness.  It is part of growing up and maturing.   I don,t agree with rushing degrees you missing half the reason of going to college or Uni


-- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

Thanks (0)
By DBlood
22nd Jun 2011 23:08


 I blame Gordon Brown I do. There agian I blame Gordon Brown for everthing...


Posted by memyself-eye on Wed, 22/06/2011 - 20:46


Well, at least doing that you know you will probably be right at least 90% of the time :) 


Thanks (0)
PAH Accounting Devizes Wiltshire
By Phil Hendy
23rd Jun 2011 06:18

Don't think it is necessary

 I didn't go to Uni and it hasn't done me any harm.

I think the comment above about skills is incorrect. I started at the bottom at 18 and worked my way up. I learnt everything from the basics to full practice management in hands on, workplace training. In my opinion a much better way to learn.

When I was employed at a mid-tier firm in Cheltenham I was in a position where I had to take our new graduates out on jobs. Some were better than others but quite often they didn't have the understanding of the basics to be able to do the work. Work skills particularly were limited. They did have very good application for studying their Chartered exams etc. 


Thanks (0)
By Richard Willis
23rd Jun 2011 09:17

Two things: -

1)  I was referred in Law & Taxation 3 times in the IAS (now AAT) exams and gave up.  I was always going to be in commerce and the tax was virtually all personal.  I was still the most knowledgeable about contract law when I joined a 50 year old company that exported machinery all over the world!

2)  Surely teachers are proof positive that having a degree guarantees NOTHING!!!!!  Most of them would starve in the real world.

Thanks (0)
By justsotax
23rd Jun 2011 09:52

my degree opened doors for me....
but only because of the inset snobbery of the people I worked for, who wouldn't interview anybody without a degree (even for junior positions) - but it is quite plain to see that you can do as well with or without one. Maybe what will improve with the fee system in place is that the degree courses on offer will actually be meaningful - although these 'establishments' still seem to have enough money to waste on various studies that have no value apart from filling a spot on the news (be it radio or TV) - and generally establish something that we already know. (eating a diet of chocolate and fast food will lead to heart disease - or something as ridiculus)

Thanks (0)
Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
23rd Jun 2011 11:33



The best thing about Uni or college is were you realise other people have talents , not just accountants.   It is very easy to say someone else degree is pointless.  The funny thing is it never the one you are doing.   Its good to have a open mind and enjoy other peoples skills and learn from them .

 I love drama and music which frequently gets targeted as pointless.  Edinburgh and Glasgow have a huge sector of people employed in this area and film sector and creative design .   Some of these business are my biggest clients . The festivals are huge.Were not talking Glastonbury here , their figures finacially are tiny compared to the Edinburgh festivals and the money it brings to Edinburgh.    I am getting lessons how to play the drums from a group of Glasgow UNI Students.  I had my first gig yesterday at the Giasgow Uni.  I have not felt this great for ages , still love accounts .  But I am still buzzing from yesterday.  I know your never to young I'm 42 there are quite a few older than me though.

I am not sure I would want to live in a world where everyone was the same 

I have clients who quite frankly have some strange degrees,  but I not complaining , they have kept me in business .  I am certainly not going to comment on others degrees.   It is up to the individual to use their Education wisely.  Its only you that can change what happens.

-- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

Thanks (0)
By thisistibi
23rd Jun 2011 13:10

Not worth it

I wouldn't have got my job in accountancy without a 2:1 degree.  But things have changed.  Big 4 firms now take school leavers.  And it's absolutely right for them to change this - University is nothing but a social experience, it doesn't enhance one's technical ability in accounting terms. 

Those who study accountancy at University are proven to do WORSE in the professional stage qualifications compared to those with a non-relevant degree, possibly because you become stuck in your ways and closed to new concepts when you think you already know it.  I did a completely unrelated degree at Uni which I have never used in my career whatsoever.  I still value the years I spent doing my degree, but not for career reasons.

Thanks (0)
23rd Jun 2011 14:21


My accounting and finance degree was a waste of time. What we learned could have easily been done in half the time. I actually learned most of it in my professional exams and work experience. The 3 years of partying and boozing was worth it!

A degree is worth it for some professions like medicine, engineering, etc.

Thanks (0)
Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
23rd Jun 2011 14:45

Uni Parties


The friends you make in Uni or college are second to none and yes still to this day I am still in touch .  I have really good memories of the parties and dancing till all hours of the morning.  Most of us from college have moved about but we  do make a big effort to all see each other every couple of years if not more.  

 And before any one says anything I paid my own fees in Dublin . I did not have a grant and worked part time .  You need to party hard when your studying accountancy.   In fact they had a reputation for party quite hard .  Still worked hard to get my exams though.  Would not have got a job otherwise in those times. 

This is all part of growing up , the same as interailing across Europe and a visit to Octoberfest with your friends is .  I am looking forward to my son going to college or Uni when its time.  I know I won,t like half the things he will get up to at Uni , but then I don,t think my Mum or Dad did for me either , in fact I am sure of it.    


- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

Thanks (0)
By DBlood
23rd Jun 2011 18:32


Isnt comparing those with and those without degrees a bit like the argument between qualified and QBE's ?

There are no doubt some rubbish QBE's around, but those who are good tend to be very, very good. The same applioes to those who are qualified, some are good, and there are some who are, to put it bluntly, idiots.

Bits of paper, whether they are qualifications, degrees, or anything else, even a diving licence, mean only that on one particular day with one particular set of questions, you managed to remember enough to convince an examiner that you were not a complete dunce, and might just be safe to be allowed out into the big wide world on your own.


Thanks (0)
Replying to Kotenka:
My photo
By Matrix
14th Jan 2018 19:47

If you go to uni in the UK I would also hope that you would end up speaking English proper.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Matrix:
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
14th Jan 2018 23:55

I think Kotenka was taught English by the same person who wrote the content on the weblink within Kotenka’s post ...

Thanks (0)
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
14th Jan 2018 22:30

When I went in the late 80's yes definitely the right thing to do. I had a fantastic time...
... and also managed to get a Desmond.

Now I think young people's decision will be influenced by the cost. For some of those that do go its a waste of time.

For some that don't its a great shame.

I'd hope that young people now can find a sensible person - teacher/mentor/friend/relative who can give them useful advice to help them work out whether it is the right thing for them to do.

I have three children and I know it isn't the right thing for all of them. At least 1 will be better off working (and training in a vocational subject) after A levels as they aren't really suited to traditional academic life.

Thanks (0)
Share this content