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More than a third of accountants wouldn’t have gone to university today

12/07/11
  • £88,700 opportunity cost of higher education means only 40% of accountancy and finance professionals would have decided to go to university today
  • Only 50% of accountancy and finance professionals would go to university today
  • Universities must follow AC Grayling’s model to survive

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.

Tim Hedger, deputy managing director of Marks Sattin comments: “People considering university should bear in mind not only the price of tuition and the debt they will take on, but also the financial loss from not working for three years. When you do this, the total cost of university begins to look very large indeed. The fact that some of London’s accountants don’t think doing a degree is worth the cost shows the UK’s universities have failed to offer value to students and provide a relevant education.

Unless universities are able to show they offer value for money, the current costs mean they will fail. AC Grayling’s planned £18,000 per year New College of the Humanities may seem expensive at first glance, but by consulting industry experts in order to ensure students learn skills that will be useful in future, Grayling has ensured that students’ money won’t be wasted. To be seen as a real value-add , universities must offer skills and training tailored to a career”.

One accountant told Marks Sattin “I will do everything I can to support my children if they want to go to university – so long as the course is worthwhile. But I wouldn’t advise going to university unless it’s for a highly specialised subject which offers the chance to gain work experience and counts towards a professional qualification. Unless you can see how your studies will help you into the world of work, university is simply too expensive now”.

Many aspiring accountants are already able to choose not to go to university and learn their trades through apprenticeship schemes. KPMG, PwC and Deloitte run recruitment schemes for school leavers who have decided university is not for them. KMPG’s scheme allows school leavers to get the necessary academic training over 6 years, while earning £20,000 per annum and the firm anticipates that in future school leavers will account for 400 new recruits each year – the majority of its trainee chartered accountant intake . Deloitte has expanded its BrightStart scheme to 100 places for 2011 and PwC’s scheme promises candidates higher salaries than their peers would receive having joined directly from university.

Tim Hedger continues “On-the-job training is becoming commonplace in industries where a conventional university education was once considered a prerequisite. When an employer as big as KPMG suggests it will primarily recruit school leavers in future, it’s clear the move away from traditional forms of higher education is not far away”.

A KPMG press release on 7 March 2011 read “KPMG envisages that in due course its school leaver programme may account for the majority (in excess of 400) of its annual trainee chartered accountant intake.”

According to a similar poll conducted by the legal recruiter Laurence Simons, only 50% of lawyers say they would have attended university had they faced current costs.

Tim Hedger responds “Lawyers and accountants are high-earners and to hear some of these professionals would be willing to shun university indicates that even the prospect of getting a high-earning job is outweighed by the financial hand grenade university now represents”.

While many of the top employers still require a degree, it’s clear this is declining. Accountancy firms like KPMG and Deloitte are leading the way in creating schemes which not only increase diversity in professionals services industries, but which give firms early access to focused individuals who are able to obtain relevant training as soon as they finish school.”

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