University: Is it worth it?

The BIG debate – University: Is it worth it?

Is a university degree necessary for success in later life? Are the costs of university now outweighing the benefits? Has having or not having a degree made any difference to your life?

We share the views of 2 young people in Zambia and then ask YOU to share your views and experiences.

The YES argument

I think that a university degree will definitely make a difference in my life. In Zambia, those without a degree have little chance of getting an interview because nearly all job adverts seem to want applications from those who have degrees only. It is clear to me that university graduates have more options in Zambia than non-graduates.

A university degree also proves that you have a certain knowledge of a subject. In an increasingly complex and technology driven world this can only benefit you when looking to find employment. 

What I would like to see though is more opportunities for graduates in Zambia. At the moment it feels like there are lots of us chasing just a few jobs. Furthermore, in addition to a degree most job adverts ask for several years work experience. What I would like to know is how can we gain experience given that we have been studying? 

M, Lusaka

The NO argument

I finished school with good grades but decided not to go to university. Instead, I went to work in our small family business supplying goods and services to the mining sector. It is not a decision I regret – 5 years later I have found that I earn more and have more skills and experience than my friends who went to university. As a result I have no debt and am able to financially support my wife and child. 

The salary was very, very low to start but as I have built up my experience and skills I have been able to prove my worth to the business. When you are young you do not need to earn as much as when you are older so the low starting salary was not that big a deal.

During the last 5 years I think I have learned more about business than I would have in 3 years at university. After all  there is no course that teaches you the skills required to run a small family business! That said, I have done several courses that have helped me with some of the technical skills I was lacking. These included courses in book keeping and marketing. Sometimes I do regret not having a degree as I wonder what will happen to me if the business fails. Will employers see my lack of a degree as a problem?

I think that some of my friends were a bit immature to go to university and they might have benefited from taking a lower-paid job and studying part-time too. Alternatively, they could have put off going to university until they were more mature and better able to fund their studies.

E, Kitwe


So, what do you think? Having read the experiences of the individuals above do you think that a university degree is necessary for success in later life? Are the costs of university now outweighing the benefits? Has having or not having a degree made any difference to your life?

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10 thoughts on “University: Is it worth it?”

  1. I hope this colleague of ours is not just want to justify why he/she never attended tertiary education with I feel is so imperative in this modern world. I’m not denying the fact that one can succeed without a degree,but education puts us on a position that you don’t have to regret of any future opportunities that avails to you. Even one of the greatest icon,Nelson Mandela in particular stated that, “education is the powerful tool to change the world”. What happened to you only applies to few individuals.

  2. This discussion can not end without my comment. I feel we can not appreciate the importance of education unless we see what it does. Those of us with low education we can not just admit that without a degree our confidence is limited to our little understanding. Those with higher education they are confident even if they are poor. That is what makes them do many things that the rich man pays for. Think about these small things like seminars, business conferences, among other, only educated guys with degrees and more are doing them. Most of our police makers have some education of some kind.
    So if education if done first even when one wants to go into business he can even learn new tactics from books, while the uneducated avoids even a book that can make them prosper in their business venture.
    Similarly, if business came first most of those who i wish to call clever, they still learn after they acquire money. Business people who are doing fine these days are on some educational programme in one way or another.
    So let us respect one another as our opinions are not final. Let us not bleed inside our hearts for the things that others value and possess. After all we are successful only when God allows us to succeed. our efforts alone are not enough.

  3. Mumba Chabwe

    Well as individuals we may be entitled to our own opinions; however a degree level education is vital in one’s life as it opens to you a wide variety of options and doors to pick from or choose from. I do agree entirely with Fabian without a proper knowledge background your view and understanding of issues in most instances tends to be limited and the magnitude of taking risks tends to be very minimal as one does not understand be it economical trends or international trends per se. Overally an EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO RUNNING THE WORLD ECONOMY AND BUSINESSES SUCCESSFULLY!!! WITHOUT IT I WONDER…..

  4. This is an argument that does not require much debate. A university degree is definitely imperative. Otherwise we are telling ourselves that tertiary education is useless.
    The view that says “NO” is arguable because such instances have at least 20% chances of happening. This is because not every family has a business that their child can work in if they decline going to university. Furthermore, not every business turns out successful. The fact that he’s doing fine than most degree holders does not give him the right to generally declare that a degree is not worth it. He is looking at this in a minimal perspective.
    A degree can enable you to work anywhere in the world, it can also allow you to further your studies into a Masters or Phd which then opens even more doors for one to do anything they want to do in life anywhere.
    The business that my friend is doing is limited to mining. (I’m not saying doing business is bad), but businesses are always prone to what happens if it is a bad year that year or the mining industry is not as lucrative as it was before, or what happens when people begin to invest in the technological industry? A degree holder, on the other hand can work anywhere and switch industries if he or she feels he or she can do better elsewhere.
    So because he got lucky doing business and earns a handsome package does not give him the mandate to declare university degrees void.
    Let us not diminish the power of knowledge. The most developed countries in the world will tell you that development retains its enhancement and sustainability from education.

    • Success is a relative term and depending on one’s definition of success university education may or may not be a requisition for one to,be successful. If you look at people like Bill Gates they have no University degree but a successful being one s of the richest people in the world. To make money one does not need a university education but in order to build a proper world view a university education may be necessary. However, university education requires continuity to able to relevant to society.

      • Musaba i do agree with you,…and the question is asking if a degree is worth it…. anyway, as you wish, how many Bill gates’ do we have? If you review world statistics right, you will find that there are more people in the world that are doing better than most business people that never acquired a degree. Bill Gates himself only dropped out of Law school at Harvard University in his 4th Year “after only” realising that he had begun making money from his business “whilest” at university not that he considered a university degree worthless. If his business had never realised the profit he needed, he would never have dropped out.

        • I don’t think it’s worth it for everyone. I think many people study the wrong course and then come out of university thinking that the world owes them a living. I can see how engineers, medical professionals and such like need a theoretical grounding in their subject before getting a job BUT I think for most jobs you can gain learn the technical stuff at the same time as you learn how to actually do the job. If you go straight from school and work 3 years as an accounts assistant and study in the evening at the same time I think you will be more useful to an employer than a university graduate. The problem is getting the job straight from school…..

          • Well, I should say, there is no such thing as studying the wrong course. But as you may, many institutions have introduced Graduate Training programmes. Eg: Banks, Napsa, PWC and other financial institutions regardless of the course one did. The question again is asking if a degree is worth it…let’s refer to that…

          • If you study plumbing but want to become an electrician that would be studying the wrong course wouldnt it? Also, in some countries institutions have introduced recruitment straight from school. They employ school leavers and support them in their studies whilst they work. Even in subjects like as this is happening. In these circumstances a degree is not worth it as you can save money and gain qualifications and real life experience at the same time.

          • But then Justin why would one who wants to be an Electrician be studying Plumbing in the first place. If he made a decision to study plumbing he surely knows he ought to be a plumber one day. But Justin then again which institutions recruit straight from high school? Mention at least 5. And still why would they bother sending them to school or why would school leavers bother to pursue further studies if they thought degrees were worthless.

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