Are University Degrees still Important for British Asians?

University degrees have always held great importance in Asian families, but is this view now changing? We spoke to some students to find out.

Are University Degrees still Important for British Asians?

"I think skills matter more than a piece of paper"

Education has always been an essential aspect of many cultures. In South Asian households, in particular, university degrees have a long history of being attributed to success.

However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding how education is perceived and valued in British Asian communities.

With the growth of social media, blogging and online platforms, more individuals aren’t as attracted to university as they once were.

Whilst achieving a degree is still reinforced in Desi families, are they still important as they once were? And, how do British Asians themselves feel about them?

Family Traditions

Are University Degrees still Important for British Asians?

In the UK, South Asian students make up a significant proportion of the student population.

According to a study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the number of British Asian students enrolled in higher education has doubled since 2010.

The report also shows that British Asian students are more likely to attend university than their white British counterparts.

This suggests that education remains a significant priority for many British Asian families.

The emphasis on academic achievement can be attributed to cultural values and traditions. Education is often viewed as a means of improving one’s social and economic status.

Many parents encourage their children to pursue university degrees as a way to ensure a better future for themselves and their families.

In many cases, it is seen as a way of honouring the family and cultural heritage.

Moreover, the experience of South Asian families in the UK has not been without challenges.

Many first-generation immigrants faced discrimination and limited job opportunities, which made it difficult for them to provide for their families.

In such situations, education was often viewed as a way to overcome these obstacles and build a better life.

It’s this instinct of survival that many elders instill in their children, hoping they will strive for paths that they themselves couldn’t follow.

25-year-old Harjit from Birmingham explains:

“I come from a family where education is highly valued.”

“Getting a degree was always seen as the path to success, so it was important for me to go to university.

“I’m studying business management, and I feel like I’m learning a lot of practical skills that will help me in my future career.

“My parents are really proud of me, and I know that getting a degree will open up a lot of opportunities for me.”

Raj, a 26-year-old student also shared his view:

“I come from a working-class background, and going to university was a big achievement for me and my family.

“My degree in architecture is important to me because it’s a symbol of my hard work and dedication.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to university, so it’s a big deal. I know that this degree will help me get a good job and provide for my family.”

Lastly, we spoke to 23-year-old Saira from London who stated:

“My parents were always clear that they wanted me to go to university and get a degree.

“But now that I’m here, I’m not sure if this is the path for me. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the workload and the pressure to perform.

“I’m studying medicine, and it’s been a lot of long hours and stressful exams.

“But I know that a degree in medicine is highly respected and can lead to a rewarding career. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and stay focused on my goals.”

It’s clear how families are still advising their children to go to university, regardless if they agree with it or not.

Whilst the students see the benefits of university, it seems the underlying motivation is their family’s pride rather than their own dream of getting a degree.

A Changing Perspective

Are University Degrees still Important for British Asians?

According to statistics by the UK Department for Education, more than 100,000 students from Asian backgrounds study at British universities.

It also revealed that Pakistani students had the highest drop-out rate among all groups, with a rate of 11.1%.

However, the statistics also showed that the proportion of South Asian students with high entry grades had increased over the years.

For example, over 40% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi students achieve AAB or above in their A-levels.

These statistics highlight the allure of university is still there but also emphasises the drop-out rate is steadily on the ride.

British Asian student, Ahmed Khan, who graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in engineering, spoke about the importance of a university degree for him and his family:

“For me, getting a university degree was always a priority. It was something that my parents emphasised from a young age, and I knew that it was expected of me.

“In our community, education is seen as a way of achieving success and providing for our families.

“A university degree is a symbol of that success.”

However, not all British Asian students share Ahmed’s perspective.

A survey conducted by UCAS found that more than half of British Asian students were uncertain about the value of a university degree.

Many cited the cost of tuition fees and the competitive job market as their primary concerns.

These concerns mix in with a variety of other issues and thoughts that British Asians have.

Amina Ali, a student who is currently studying for a degree in law at the University of Manchester, spoke about the challenges she faces:

“It’s not easy. There is a lot of pressure to do well, both from your family and from yourself.

“You have to be willing to work hard and make sacrifices if you want to succeed.”

These mixed emotions are deterring more people away from university. 21-year-old Farah explained more on this:

“University has been a struggle for me. I’m not sure if I really want to be here, but my parents pushed me into it.

“I don’t think a degree is that important to me or my family. I’m studying law, and it’s been a lot of reading and memorising.

“It’s not really my thing, so I have been thinking of dropping out or taking a gap year.”

We also spoke to 22-year-old Ravi from Devon, who revealed:

“I’ve struggled with the workload and the pressure to perform.”

“I’m trying to stay focused but I rushed coming to university and should have given it more thought. A lot of my mates didn’t go to uni and they have more of a life than I do.

“A lot of them do apprenticeships or went straight into jobs. I look at their lives and mine and wonder who is better off.”

Additionally, 20-year-old Zainab from Bromley highlighted why degrees aren’t worth it:

“I’m not sure if a degree will be that important in the long run.

“I think skills matter more than a piece of paper. I hope to get some good internships and build up my portfolio while I’m working other jobs.

“I’ve got the freedom to explore different options. When I’ve gone to apply for jobs, they rarely ask me about my education and more about what I do and what I can bring to the table.”

It is clear that many British Asians are contemplating university life and whether a degree is beneficial to them

Are University Degrees Worth It?

Are University Degrees still Important for British Asians?

Many British Asian students are challenging traditional stereotypes and expectations by shunning university as a whole.

Some are aware of the rising costs and feel a degree will burden them even more in the long run.

Other British Asians feel it just is not the right path and doesn’t hold the same prestige as it once did. 21-year-old Omar from Birmingham explained:

“I didn’t want to go to university because I didn’t want to accumulate debt.

“I come from a working-class family and I knew that taking out a loan to pay for tuition fees and living costs would put a strain on my finances for years to come.

“Instead, I chose to get a job straight out of school and work my way up.”

Adding to this was 24-year-old Amrita who lives in Liverpool:

“For me, university just didn’t seem like the right fit.

“I’ve always been more interested in practical skills and hands-on work, rather than studying theory in a classroom.

“I didn’t want to spend three or four years studying something that I wasn’t passionate about, just for the sake of getting a degree.

“Instead, I pursued vocational training in my field of interest and have been able to build a successful career doing what I love.”

We also spoke to 23-year-old Aman from Nottingham who said:

“The truth is, I didn’t have the grades to get into university.

“It was a hard pill to swallow at first, especially because I felt like I was letting my family and myself down.

“But I didn’t want to give up on my dreams just because of one setback.

I started exploring alternative pathways to success, such as apprenticeships and online courses, and I’ve been able to gain valuable skills and experience that have helped me in my career.

Going to university isn’t the only way to succeed, and I want to prove that to myself and others.”

In contrast, Neema, a student in London said getting a degree has it’s benefits:

“I love university! It’s been such a great experience for me.

“I’m studying art and design, and it’s been amazing to learn about different techniques and styles.

“I feel like my creativity has really blossomed here.”

“I don’t know if a degree in art will be that useful in my future career, but I’m not really thinking about that right now. I’m just enjoying the moment and having fun.”

Danny, a 30-year-old student in York went back to study after missing out on university when he was younger:

“I think university has been a great experience for me.

“I made the decision before not to come to uni because I felt it wasn’t worth it. But having worked and now studying, I can see why a lot of Asians do get a degree.

“I feel like I’ve grown so much in my time here and made some lifelong friends. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely been worth it.

“Regardless of the stress and late nights working, you do get a sense of pride after getting a good grade or passing an exam.

“It’s a feeling like no other!”

Education has always been an essential aspect of South Asian culture, and British Asian households continue to place a high value on academic achievement.

For many, a university degree is seen as a means of achieving social mobility and providing for their families.

However, it is important to recognise that pursuing a university degree is not the only path to success.

Education is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and individuals should choose the path that best suits their skills, interests, and career goals.

But, it can be said that British Asians’ perception of degrees has certainly been impacted. It’ll be interesting to see the academic climate in the future.

Do you think university degrees are still important?

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Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Instagram.

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