The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
I quit uni and found a job I love
Dropped out of Glasgow University and got a job as a reporter at a local paper
Albert Tait, 20, was six weeks into his first term at Glasgow University when he started to think seriously that university wasn’t for him. “I had arrived full of optimism and it didn’t even cross my mind that I wouldn’t finish the four-year course,” he says. “I’d survived lockdown, got the A-levels I needed to study history and spent a disastrous year off trying, and failing, to travel. University was the next stage in a straight line of education and everyone I knew was going.”
The first few weeks were good. “I got a houseplant, joined the hockey club, got a bad tattoo and wrote for the student newspaper. I really liked my flatmates, we played a lot of cards, drank in a lot of pubs and queued for a lot of clubs. I even got a badly paid job.”
The problem was that Tait started to lose faith in why he was there. His course consisted of three hours of lectures a week attended in person, and all the rest were delivered online. “Factoring in university strikes and Cop26, I attended just 15 in-person lectures in the three months I was there,” he says. “I found myself writing half-hearted essays and watching my online tutorials at three times the normal speed.” At the same time, the funds in his bank account were dwindling. “I waited for it to fall into place but it never did, and I woke up one morning and just thought, ‘I don’t want to be here.’”
It took him three days to make the final decision. “I listed pros and cons, flipped coins, rang my mum, told my flatmates I was leaving, then that I was staying, then that I was leaving, rang my mum again and, finally, emailed my advisor of studies to tell her I wanted to drop out.”
Tait received a brief email in return – and that was that. “It was underwhelming – but so was my time at uni.”
He had expected moving back home to be depressing, but quickly found himself enjoying it. He started working as a Waitrose delivery driver to earn some money, and after three months got a job as a reporter on his local paper.
“I’m part of a scheme run by Facebook designed to get young people into journalism,” he explains. “It pays for regional papers to take on someone without a degree, who will then be trained up to sit their journalism exams. I now know I want to be a journalist and I believe I can make it without a degree.”
He stills get an occasional twinge about the friends he left behind, but has not regretted the decision to leave university. “At the time, it felt like I was lost. In hindsight, I just never realised there was another option.
“I know there will be jobs I can’t get without a degree. I won’t ever become a teacher or an academic, but I don’t want to do either of those things. It seems like university is great for keeping your options open, but matters less when you know what it is you want to do.
“It is clear to me already that so much about journalism can only be learnt through experience. The confidence, the resilience, the little dark arts. I have learnt more in two months than I could have in four years of uni.”