For most Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people, the prospect of going to university isn’t often considered as an option. Currently only 3-4% of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people attend of have attended university, compared to about 45% of the rest of the population. However, this can change. Going to university is a great opportunity to develop, secure your future and give back to society. Being Gypsy, Roma and Traveller should not be a barrier that prevents you from accessing opportunities and going to university.


UK universities are among the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the world. The University of Oxford in England is almost 1,000 years old and is currently ranked the best university in the world, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. A further 29 UK universities feature in the top 200. Here in the UK we have access to a huge range of excellent universities, offering courses in almost any subject you can think of. Going to university is more than just learning, it is bout gaining new skills and experiencing new things. University is also a gateway to career success and is proven to boost your earning potential.

What sub-section are available on this page?

      • Background of Higher Education
      • Why Go to University?
      • What Can I Study?
      • Will Going to University be Worth it?
      • How to Get Started

Background of Higher Education

A university is an institution of Higher Education (HE) and research which awards academic degrees in several academic disciplines. Universities typically offer both undergraduate and postgraduate programs in different schools or faculties of learning.

Higher Education Course Structure

Undergraduate courses (also known as Bachelor’s) are the most common higher education courses as they are the first course which must be undertaken to progress on to postgraduate study. These three-year courses will cover levels 3-6. The following are the types of undergraduate degree a student can take:

  • honours and ordinary degrees
  • qualified teacher status
  • enhanced first degrees
  • intercalated degrees

Once a student has completed an undergraduate course, they may be eligible to go on to study a postgraduate course. These courses are typically one or two-years long, depending on the type of qualification. These courses typically cover level 7. Postgraduate courses that which are available are:

  • a Master’s degree (Taught or Research),
  • Postgraduate diplomas (such as the Graduate Diploma in Law)
  • postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE)
  • professional degrees.

After a student completes this level of education, they are often eligible to go on to study a doctorate, also known as a PhD.

There are other types of HE undergraduate courses, which aren’t as common but are nevertheless still extremely valuable. These include:

  • Foundation degrees,
  • SVQ,
  • NVQ,
  • Higher National Diploma HND (or equivalent),
  • NHC (or equivalent) etc.

How Long Do Courses Take?

An undergraduate course typically takes three-years to finish, although Scotland usually takes four-years to finish an undergraduate course. Although there are a greater number of UK universities are offering a four-year undergraduate course, also known as “sandwich courses”. This program includes one year in a workplace, usually in the third year.

What Can I Study?

 There are over 50,000 undergraduate courses at more than 395 providers in the UK, so there is no shortage of courses for you to consider. Importantly there are courses for almost everyone, regardless of your background or education. In some cases, you may be able to take a foundation year at university. Foundation years are often used for people who do not have the requirements to start a course, to be able to catch up and allow them to start their full course.

For detailed lists on the universities available in the UK, as well as the courses they offer, visit British Uni to learn more.

Will Going to University be Worth it?

It is impossible to predict for sure if going to university will benefit you in the long-term. However, it is important to consider the facts and remember there are lots of reasons why it is still worth going to university.

What are the positives?

It is a fact that university graduates on average earn more than non-university graduates, which can help build a future and ensure your personal aspirations like buying a house, travelling, or getting married are easily funded.

There is a broader experience available for those going to study at university. The experience of moving away, becoming independent, meeting people from other parts of the country, and making new friends from different walks of life, should not be underestimated and it is a life changing experience. Of course, a student could attend a local university and remain living at home with their family. Either option is valid and both offer a unique experience.

The opportunity to learn new things helps you develop as an individual, it challenges you, engages you and ultimately teaches you skills that you will use again and again throughout your life.

It is a reality that some university graduates will find suitable jobs, when others won’t, however the same can be said for non-university graduates. The chances that a person will end up with their dream job varies for all sorts of different reasons. A degree should not be considered an automatic passport to a suitable job, but it is often the best option for success.

Student debt is always a huge talking point around the consideration of whether to attend university or not. The way the student loan in England is structured, the amount you pay back is based on how much you earn in future. You will never be in a position of paying more than you can afford as repayments stop if you are not earning. Likewise, the percentage of your income that you will pay back is fixed, in this way it is like national insurance. It is helpful to think of it as a relatively small additional tax a graduate will have to pay for the privilege of attending university. This debt is not considered when making applications for mortgages or loans and does not impact your credit score. It is for these reasons potential university students should not consider student debt as a barrier to attending university.

What are the negatives?

It is true that many students find themselves attending university because everyone else around them is. This is not a good reason to go to university. University is not for everyone, and that is okay. Going to university is about a choice, there are no right or wrong decisions. Consider whether you are not academically minded or don’t really have an interest in further study, perhaps university is not for you. However, there are plenty of course to choose from and many people who have attended university are not academically minded, and they still have been successful in achieving what they want to do. Always remember, there are plenty of alternatives to studying at university.

Not all careers need a degree, with some offering on the job training. Vocational careers are especially worth considering all available options, as a non-university route may be more suitable. Remember, some of the UK’s most successful businesspeople, such as Richard Branson and Alan Sugar, did not go to university.

Although the university social life is often a significant selling point for many prospective students, it is not a reason to decide to attend university, rather it is a benefit. Getting a degree is hard work and this is often overlooked when focusing on socials factors alone.

To conclude: The answer to whether to go to university is worth thinking seriously about and it is something only you can decide upon. Always research, visit universities and ask questions before deciding. Equally, think deeply about the reasons why you want to go to university, as well as what you hope to get out of it, and then you can start to work out whether it will achieve those things for you.

How to Get Started

For guidance on applying to universities, visit the UCAS website.

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