One of the factors attributed to the success of St Andrews is their teaching, especially the way they reacted to lockdown. Yes, like other universities, they moved their teaching online as a result of COVID-19, but they did small group teaching in a way that their students feel is better than other top universities.
At Excel, we can very much relate to what St Andrews did well during COVID lockdown. This is because, at the start of lockdown, it took us very little time to get going online, and we incorporated a significant number of one-to-one online tutorials into what we do, which turned out to be a success, with record number of students performing well and gaining admission to the top universities to study courses that are in high demand. The quality of online education provided by so many schools during lockdown is utterly disgraceful, and I do not accept they could not have done better with the resources they have.
Some may want to argue that the degree course that one studies at university matters more than the university one attends. I disagree. The only real exception, where the course studied at university is the determining factor on earning power and employability, is medicine. No other course comes close, not even Computer Science. According to The Sunday Times ranking for subjects, graduate prospects for those who study a Computer Science degree from Imperial College is over 100% higher than for those who obtained their degrees from South Bank University.
So many young people live under the delusion that, if they study a Law degree at Wolverhampton University or London Met University, they have a good chance of becoming a barrister. In theory, yes, but in reality, the chances are infinitesimally small. Someone with any degree – not necessary Law, from LSE or Cambridge has a much higher chance of becoming a barrister. Of course, if their first degree is not in Law, they will have to do a law conversion course first before training as a barrister. This is just one of the many misconceptions by young people, that, in the end, lead to frustration and resentment. I am not saying that many of these things are brilliant the way they are. I am just highlighting what I see in front of my eyes, and it is very important that young people know the way things are when they are making key decisions about their future. We parents have an obligation to guide our offspring, and point out the truth to them, so they are better informed.
In conclusion, there are reasons for striving to gain admission to a top university, and in the UK, the Russell Group is a pretty reliable guide of what is good. I would even suggest that the young person applies to Oxford or Cambridge if they have a chance. At the same time, it is good to be aware that there are high ranking universities that are not a member of the Russell Group.
This is what I’d say to young people: for anyone who is well-focused and determined, and is willing to do what it takes, they will prosper irrespective of which university they attend. There are three people I’d like to give as examples of success who have not attended Russell Group universities: John Bercow (the former speaker of the House of Commons); Sajid Khan, the mayor of London and a cabinet minister, Nadine Dorries, who did not even attend university.
It is okay to aim for the stars, you may well end up reaching the moon. Thank you for reading and speak to you soon.
Links – BBC earning potential