Last updated: 22.10.15

Apprentices more valuable than 'mediocre university' students

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."

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