F&A: The great £9k debate

Georgie Bedford and Alex Greig question whether tuition fees increasing to £9,000 makes going to university at all worthwhile


I’m an English / Philosophy student and, contact-hours wise, this represents just about the worst value for money available. So why, I hear you cry, do I believe university to be worth £9,000 a year?

To state the obvious, you get a degree out of it (providing you do some work) and whilst some question the worth of a degree, as far as I can tell, they really are valuable. There are far more jobs you can do once you’ve got those little, unassuming letters after your name, and generally speaking the better you do in your degree, the more likely it is you’ll get a decent job.

Moreover, you’ll come out of university far more clever than you went in, and I don’t just mean academically. Yes, you will learn a large amount about your subject choice, and even start to think in new ways, but you will also learn much outside the lectures. You’ll probably be living  with a large number of people your age for the first time – you’ll learn how to put up with others and (cue a cliché) you’ll even learn how to live with yourself. You will discover a lot about people, relationships, independence, maybe even cooking and cleaning (although some people believe these to be optional). Best of all, you’ll go through all of this in an environment where everyone else is new to it too and your only responsibility is yourself – you need worry about little else.

University is awesome fun outside the lecture theatre. The living arrangements are great, the nights out, the lie-ins, and more. Where else do you meet thousands of people with whom you have something in common? Not only does everyone share University as common ground, but people will have very few friends in a new city, if anyone at all. Everyone is out to meet new people. Who knows, you might even find your future spouse.

The activities you can try out at university are worthwhile too. As well as there being societies you’ve never heard of, they are all easy to access and enrol in. These groups offer the ability to try things at a far cheaper price than they would be in the ‘real’ world. So what if the bell ringing society wasn’t for you? You only paid a few quid.

Whilst all of the above are great, they are all completely worthless unless you act upon them. The key to university being worth £9,000-a-year is to make the most of it. Unless you get out of bed at some point and take advantage of all that is on offer, it won’t be worth the money. If you do, however, it will be utterly priceless. AG


Freshers of 2012 are handing over up to £9,000-a-year for their degree, after tuition fees were hiked from around £3,000. This increase, which angered students nationwide, is set to leave graduates over £27,000 in the red. Now, more than ever, we need to question whether university is really worth it.

The three major factors to consider are:

Is university a good investment for what you want to do?

Is there another, less costly route for getting what you want?

Is your motivation for university to learn and increase your job prospects?

It’s not easy to judge if your degree is a good investment, because no one can predict the future. But, interestingly, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the average graduate earns a £22,000 starting salary – £8,000 more than the estimate for non-graduates. So, if/when Average Joe Graduate manages to land a job, with his three-year fees and loans debt of £36,000, plus a £2,000 overdraft and three years of missed earnings (totalling £42,000), he’d be £80,000 behind his non-graduate counterparts – just to have an equal net income would take 10 years! And that’s not to mention additional uni years and the non-graduate’s inevitable rising pay. If you’re not guaranteed a job come graduation, your potential earnings are low or your degree’s not highly valued by employers (for example, you’re unlikely to get a high classification or it’s irrelevant to the job you want), then university isn’t the wisest financial investment.

For many careers, a degree isn’t essential and alternative vocational routes – such as apprenticeships, interning, starting at the bottom and working your way up, or workplace-based courses – are just as effective for reaching your end goal, without the excessive cost.

Finally, it seems dull to say so, but if the primary attraction of university is a few fun, easy years, then you probably shouldn’t go. Yes, university is fun and great for making new friends, trying new things and being independent, but it’s not necessarily true that these experiences are exclusive to university or that they’re truly ‘invaluable’. Are non-graduates really less happy and poorer in life experiences? Gone are the days when anyone and everyone flies the nest to uni because that’s what’s expected of them; they want to move away to a fresh, exciting city; to delay getting a job; or they just want to get drunk a lot. GB


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