Published On: Wed, Jun 15th, 2016

Generation Z and their new approach to further education

Now well into 2016, the spotlight is slowly starting to swivel away from an almost all-grown-up Generation Y and onto their younger brothers and sisters – Generation Z. Their elder siblings are, no doubt, more than happy to pass down their title as the ‘most researched generation in history’ and let Gen Z take over.

While the problems young people face are largely the same – unaffordable education, inflated property prices and a rising cost of living, attitudes towards them have changed.

One of the defining features of Generation Z is their pragmatic approach to further education. This may be one of the first generations who are not looking at university as a necessity, but rather as a risk. Without maintenance grants to help cover the staggering cost of university fees and with job prospects never quite certain, there are fears that Gen Z are turning away from further education altogether. Their approach to entering into degree programmes is certainly showing signs of being much more measured and cautious.

USA’s Gap Year Phenomenon

The ‘Gap Yah’ is not an unfamiliar concept in the UK, but it has had limited success infiltrating mainstream American culture. So imagine (or Google) the international feelings of excitement and trepidation when it was announced that the President’s eldest daughter, Malia Obama, would be taking a year out before beginning her first year of study at Harvard.

A number of studies have shown that students who arrive at university after a year out are much more mature and focused than their peers. As a result, many institutions – including Harvard – encourage their students to pursue this option.

Generation Z

Levelheaded Generation Z, weighing up the increased financial risks that come with further study, might be beginning to take heed. In 2015, the number of students taking a year out increased by approximately 22%.

With the majority of these students having already proven themselves to be academically high achieving, the movement is more likely to be driven by a focus on pursuing the right career path than on taking a break from education. 60% of students surveyed said that they want a long career in one company. Choosing the right degree is therefore crucial and taking a gap year buys some all important thinking time.

Competition over scholarships is reaching international heights

For those that definitely do want to study for a degree, one way they can reduce the cost is through scholarships. American colleges have a long history of offering scholarships to students that excel athletically or academically.

However, with university fees so high, students are growing increasingly dependent on academic scholarships to afford their college fees; over a third of Generation Z expected to pay for their studies this way. Unfortunately these expectations do not line up with the number of positions available to students each year. Competition (another tell-tale trait of the Generation) is growing more fierce than ever.

America’s sports scholarships receive a huge amount of attention from students across the world, including students here in Britain. It’s estimated that around 600 UK students are awarded US sports scholarships each year, a number which is steadily increasing.

UK sports agency Future Elite Sports offers British students a way to study any degree (even one ‘completely unrelated to sport’) at an American university through USA sport scholarships. In exchange for exceptional diligence and a constant high level of achievement, the cost of living and tuition fees are all taken care of. For the money conscious, career driven Generation Z, opportunites like this are more valuable than ever before.

Employability is more important than anything

A survey exploring Generation Z’s attitude toward university showed that, for the majority of applicants, the extent to which their degree would help them prepare for a career was the most important factor when deciding where to enroll. Outweighing affordability and opportunities for advanced academic study.

For a generation fixated on career success, degrees which have strong industry connections and professional applications are going to prove much more popular than those with a more academic focus.

‘Sandwich courses’ which offer students a chance to take a year out to work in their field before graduation are increasing popular among prospective applicants and future employers. Recruiters are placing more value on an individual’s level of work experience and less on their academic records. A degree, however expensive to acquire, is worth a lot less without relevant experience to support it.

Generation Z may be at the forefront of a revolution in further education. One new scheme which hopes to transform universities across the word is the creation of degree apprenticeships. With clear real world applications, these courses appeal to Generation Z’s stricter approach to their chosen career paths and even comes closer to minimising financial risk.