Today is the season finale of childhood: it's A-Level results day. Across England and Wales, thousands of 18-year-olds will shuffle nervously into assembly halls where teachers who don't have much going on this summer will hand them a slip of paper that determines whether they will get a place at university. The successes will be photographed leaping into the air by Daily Mail photographers. The underachievers will have to enter the miserable process of clearing: calling universities to beg for a place.
But university is changing. Tuition fees are rising, maintenance grants have been scrapped, and course sizes have ballooned, all as the average wages of graduates have tumbled. For "generation rent", young people who will never own a home, a university degree may be the single most expensive thing they ever get. It's not surprising that an increasing number are wondering whether it's a good idea at all. A recent survey found that a third of graduates under 35 In 2016 say they regret going to university. For the first time in years, university applications from students in England were slightly down on the previous year.
Over the next two weeks, VICE will investigate whether it still makes sense to be a student.
Today we start with the arguments against. That university has become too expensive and that graduates aren't getting good jobs and isn't even a good place to make new friends.
Tomorrow we start to hear the other side: how university can change the lives of those beset by other difficulties in childhood, and how the value of education goes far beyond a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis.
Over the next few days, we'll hear stories of people who blew their student loans on ridiculous shit, how you can go to a British university in the middle of Shanghai, what lecturers really think of their students and the weirdest courses you can do in the UK (equine science, anyone?). We'll also look at the alternatives to university, and what the other options are for 18-year-olds getting good or bad results today.
The old cliché, about university being a place where you can eat Pot Noodles and watch Neighbours for three years and then get a high-paying dream job, has been buried. Now we have to work out whether university will remain a rite of passage for British youth, and if it does, what it's actually for.