IF the decision to increase tuition fees in 2010 was supposed to deter people from going to university, it didn’t succeed.

In 2015, more than half a million people entered higher education in the UK, the highest number on record and an increase of 3.1 per cent on the previous year, according to the UCAS end of cycle report.

But despite this, there are more question marks than ever whether the debt ridden decision to go to university is the right one.

Support worker Luke Scarr could easily have chosen that path but opted instead for a more hands-on approach.

Mr Scarr, 25, first studied a BTEC in Sports Science at Darlington College and seven years later, he is working with some of the most vulnerable young people at the very same college.

“University was an option for me after school, but the career path I chose has given me years of experience and I now have a job which I find stimulating and rewarding.

“It was definitely the best decision I ever made” he said.

Since the last general election, more than 350,000 people have started an apprenticeship.

Graphic designer Dan Blom always knew he wanted to draw for a living but left school without the qualifications he needed.

After completing his BTEC in graphic design, the 24-year-old from Newton Aycliffe had to choose between finding a job and university.

“I decided I wanted to go down the apprenticeship route and set about looking for an employer.

“It’s incredibly hard for young people to make the right choices about what they want to do” he added.

Choosing a career is one thing. The next step is to decide the best way to get on the job ladder. But what is the best path to take when there is a further education and an apprenticeship route for certain subjects.

Kerri Muirhead studied a journalism degree, while Krystal Starkey was Darlington College’s first journalism apprentice.

Miss Muirhead said “I’ve always loved English and travelling, and journalism felt like the perfect career choice. The degree really gave me a stepping stone.”

She admitted she took the degree route because she didn’t know the alternative, and suggested work experience was the key to achieving her first job in journalism rather than academic achievements.

Miss Starkey, 22, works as a lifestyle editor at a community publication in York and during her apprenticeship, won her way to the finals of a national TV media competition and was shortlisted for a journalism apprentice of the year award. She said: “As I gained more skills through the NCTJ course I was able to apply them in the workplace. I loved every minute of my apprenticeship and it was as rewarding as it was challenging.”

Andrew Brown, guidance advisor at Darlington College, has spent the summer advising young people on the right qualifications and career destinations.

He said: “Students have come in here to find out what’s on offer and find a perfect course that fits their needs, whether its childcare looking at becoming a primary school teacher, or a business course and wanting to study law.

“Through our guidance discussions, they’ve realised that they can still progress to university to do the degree they wanted, but just via a different route.”

While university might be the perfect choice for some, for those who didn’t get the grades they needed last month, there are still plenty of ways to make their career aspirations become reality.