School leavers whose grades will only get them into a mediocre university may be financially better off taking up an apprenticeship, according to a report.
The research, conducted by charity Sutton Trust, revealed that youngsters who carry out high-quality apprenticeships will go on to earn more on average than their peers who chose to study at a non-Russell Group university.
The latest report supports arguments that state 'Mickey Mouse' degrees in non-traditional subjects at poorly performing universities offer little value for money.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, highlighted the importance of apprenticeships. "If undergraduate degrees are seen as a gold standard, these vocational qualifications are too often seen as "second best", or a "fall-back option".
"But some of the UK's most famous and successful entrepreneurs were formerly apprentices - from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to billionaire jeweller Lawrence Graff to the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen," he said.
According to some business leaders, hands-on industry experience is more valuable than academic study.
The research went on to show that young people who choose to study for a Level 5 higher apprenticeship - equivalent to a foundation degree - will earn £1.44 million in their lifetime. This equates to almost £52,000 more than a youngster who opts to go to a non-elite university.
In contrast, it was found that students who graduate from a Russell Group university will earn around £1.6 million over their lifetime - £160,000 more than someone who carries out a higher apprenticeship and £212,000 more than a student who graduates from a non-Russell Group institution.
Mr Lampl concluded: "Success can come through apprenticeships, but work is needed to boost their quantity and quality and change their public perception."
Virtual College is one of the leading providers of e-learning in the UK. We offer online learning resources and specialist tools from pre-school level through to continuing education. For more information, please visit: http://www.virtual-college.co.uk/e-academies/Schools.aspx