HIGH-ACHIEVERS Alexander Shaw and Laura Herbert are both interested in student debt, but only from an academic perspective.
They met three years ago aged 18 when they had decided to kick university into touch and take a short vocational course instead.
Alexander now works as a parliamentary researcher in the office of Conservative Edward Leigh MP and Laura is a newspaper reporter, who specialises in education.
Their decision to take a professional journalism course lasting five months may have seemed brave or foolhardy to some of their friends back in 2007, but it has certainly paid off.
While the friends from her Reading comprehensive school, were settling in for their second terms at university, Laura had already landed her first job. Her qualifications from the National Council for the Training of Journalists gave Laura that first break.
“It was absolutely excellent as I got the qualifications I needed and my boss was really impressed that I hadn’t just followed everyone else and gone to university,” said Laura, 21.
Laura is now regularly presenting video bulletins from her newsroom.
The NCTJ-accredited course at Up To Speed in Bournemouth included a unit on politics and this caught Alexander’s imagination. He worked in publishing in Vienna for a year and then came his chance to work in politics and he has been, quite literally, “in the thick of it“ ever since.
“I feel really fortunate to be here and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the journalism course at Up To Speed,” said Alexander.
“I certainly don’t envy friends from school who have just graduated.”
Three years after Alexander and Laura joined Up To Speed, two high-flying 18 year olds are part of the way through the course.
Antonia Paget has already had a spell of work experience on the Daily Mail and Heather Findlay hopes to work in magazine journalism at the end of the course in February.
They are studying alongside graduates from universities such as Bristol, Exeter, Leeds, Lancaster, Surrey and Southampton. And they are certainly holding their own.
Antonia, who gained 3As and a B in her A Levels at Bryanston School, is planning to read English at university after the course and will be travelling with friends in South America in the Spring.
Heather(right) got 3 As in her A Levels at Brockenhurst Sixth Form College, but decided that university wasn’t for her.
“I really want to become a journalist, but I don’t want to wait for three years to get started,” said Heather.
The Government estimates that graduates will earn £100,000 a year more on average than those who do not have a degree. However, with fees set to rise, some could start their working lives £36,000 in the red.