The first brochure selling higher education to school pupils has been published today amid fears that rising student debt and doubts over the graduate jobs market could put many off university.
The 12-page booklet, published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and the Council for Industry and Higher Education, aims to allay would-be students' concerns that going to university could leave them broke and in a job for which they do not need graduate skills.
The brochure, called The Value of Higher Education , has been written by Vikki Pickering, a -year-old Ucas officer. It will be circulated to all schools, colleges, careers services and universities.
Ms Pickering argues in the guide that, with the likely introduction of top-up fees in 2006, it is important to regard higher education as a long-term investment that will bring many personal as well as financial rewards.
She advises that employers still value employees with degrees because they "add value" to their organisation. The guide says that, for this reason, there is direct correlation between having a degree and earning more money.
It suggests that although past research has shown that graduates from elite universities earn more, there is no need to "get hung up about the particular university or college you choose". Studying at a local institution and living at home to help keep down costs may be a good idea, it adds.
The guide attempts to rebut claims that expansion of higher education is leading to a "graduate glut". It says: "The fact that there are more students attending higher education (institutions) does not make a degree worth less than in previous years. If the market had been saturated with graduates, then surely employers would not pay so much and there would be a rise in graduate unemployment."
Ms Pickering explains that many graduates take time to find their way into a "graduate job", partly because they are not always sure what they want to do when they leave university.
Richard Brown, chief executive of the CIHE, said the guide was designed to provide young people with information about higher education in an accessible and impartial format.
"The information available at the moment is either politically motivated or has been linked to some research angle," he said.
Ms Pickering said: "It has been very interesting to reflect on what I did in higher education and how I might have benefited had I had this kind of information."
A GRADUATE'S TIPS
* Many people spend more time planning a night out than they do planning their careers. Don't be one of them
* I spent four years at university. I would like to think I learnt a lot, lived a lot and grew up
* It must be recognised there are costs in going to any higher education institution and it may not suit everyone
* Wherever you study, there will be a potential return on your investment
* Your first job after university may not be something to be proud of. If it is anything like mine, you'll laugh about it in a few years.