Universities were seen once as grand, old institutions, speckled sparsely around the UK; beacons of higher learning and lofty ambitions, occupied by only the very best and brightest faculty and students. Not to outright demolish that image but things really have changed. Every city or medium-to-large-sized town in the UK has at least one redbrick, one polytechnic and one treading water between the two.
With increases in student populations being ratcheted up year-on-year, they are just becoming the refuge of the bored, the confused or the unimaginative. Considering the price of a year at any university is sitting pretty at £9,000, there needs to be a rigorous revamp of the education system, and more importantly a discussion of the options available to the bewildered droves of nearly-adults. According to a study carried out in 2016 by insurance company Aviva, and circulated by The Guardian ‘over a third of students regret going to university.’
What makes that appalling figure even worse is summarised by a piece in The Financial Times in the same year. Apparently, student debt is now over £86 billion, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year due to the government’s decision to increase university fees. Nevertheless, this was not the focus of the article. Instead, The FT decided to home-in on the outrageous fact that over 70 percent of current students ‘will never pay off their student debt’.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but increasing prices should necessarily equate to a higher profit for those implementing them. If no one is around to pay the loans you’re dishing out so liberally then that swelling debt is set to swell even more.
Quite frankly, hiking up the cost of attending university might have been an attempt to deter the throng of kids piling through their doors. I mean, that’s what I’d do if I wanted to dissuade potential undergraduates, without categorically telling them they were contributing to the national debt and that they weren’t allowed to go. Now, it’s unlikely that government strategy dictates full disclosure concerning these likely intentions but I’d say it’s safe to assume this is an outcome that was fully considered.
Unfortunately, what seemingly wasn’t considered was that this tactic might fail. In August 2016, after students received their A-Level results, The Independent published an article which reported that 424, 000 students had been accepted into universities; a record number, higher than any years previous.
To recap, it’s the height of summer 2017 and we have more over 18s in university than ever before; hundreds of thousands of students teetering on the precipice of £27,000 worth of debt and their return on that? A degree of varying and questionable value. Because, maybe the mandate to pay back that money will be worth it if your First Class Honours from The London School of Economics bags you a graduate position at an established firm, your career path set at a steady 30k a year with opportunity to double that in ten years. It shouldn’t astound you, however, that most students do not achieve this and the predicted income not only varies drastically between universities but also between degree types and grades.