Are apprenticeships better than university degrees for young people?

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
June 17, 2022, 8:27 AM GMT+0

Few Britons see university education as the best path to prepare young people for the future

In the Queen’s Speech, the government set out its plans to make technical education more attractive to young people, including promoting apprenticeships as an alternative to university education. Boris Johnson promised at the start of the pandemic to offer an apprenticeship to every young person, although apprenticeship starts have fallen significantly.

Britons see apprenticeships as at least equally good as university degrees for young people, new polling from YouGov/The Times shows. Approaching half (45%) of the public say apprenticeships are better than university degrees for preparing young people for the future, while 44% say both are equally good. Just 4% of Britons think a university degree is best – despite university degrees having significantly higher uptake among young people than apprenticeships.

Conservative voters are considerably more likely than Labour voters to see apprenticeships as better than degrees (55%) at preparing young people for the future, rather than seeing them as equally good (40%). For Labour voters, the figures are 38% for apprenticeships and 50% for ‘both equally’.

Non-graduates are more likely to see apprenticeships as a better way of preparing young people for the future. Around half (51%) of people who have not graduated university say apprenticeships are better than university degrees, while 38% say both equally.

Those Britons who have graduated university are considerably more likely to say apprenticeships are equally good as degrees at preparing young people for the future (57%) than say they are better (just 29%). Even among graduates, however, just 7% consider a university degree to be the better option.

Among non-graduates, those who have attained lower education levels (GCSE or below) are more likely to see apprenticeships as superior to degrees (56%), compared to 47% of those whose highest education is A-levels or vocational training.

However, regardless of education, age, gender or politics, few Britons see university degrees as being better than apprenticeships.

Parents of school-aged children say they would prefer their child to take an apprenticeship, rather than a degree

By 46% to 33%, parents of school-aged children say they would prefer their child to take an apprenticeship rather than go to university. Again, Conservative voters show a stronger preference for their child starting an apprenticeship (52%) than a degree (27%), while Labour voters are narrowly in favour of preferring their child to go to university (44%) rather than have them start an apprenticeship (36%).

As before, those parents who do not have a degree say they would prefer their children to take an apprenticeship (52%) rather than get a degree (27%). Parents who graduated university feel the opposite: 51% of graduate parents would prefer their children to get a degree at 18, compared to 28% who would prefer their children to take an apprenticeship.

Among non-graduates, those parents who are educated to GCSE level or below say they would prefer apprenticeships over degrees for their children by 57% to just 17%. Those who have A-levels or vocational qualifications are more split, but still prefer their children to take an apprenticeship (49% to 34%).

See full results here

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