Students around the country start to come to the realisation that the beginning of a new academic year is looming, and they still haven’t got that vacation reading done. Eager teenagers await their A-level results, already looking forward to the legend that is Fresher’s Week. And yet, these young people are the last of a generation: as tuition fees rise from 2012, a new poll has found that a staggering third of students believe that degrees are simply no longer worth it.
A YouGov poll of students aged 25 and under found that 35% believed that a degree will no longer be worth the cost once tuition fees go up from September 2012. Combined with living costs, the cost of a three year degree at most English universities is estimated to be as much as £55,392 once tuition fees rise to £9,000.
The employment value of gaining a degree was acknowledged: 76% of students still believe that a degree is necessary for their career aspirations. However, 82% claimed that they feel pressured to go to university- even if it is not the most appropriate avenue for them and their future. 72% would welcome more readily accessible information on alternatives to university.
Balliol College JCR Access and Admissions Officer, Will Smith, admitted that the 35% may be onto something. He said: “Certainly, in some career scenarios, someone who skipped university would be able to earn more overall by gaining experience and promotion, in the time taken for an analogous undergraduate to complete their degree.”
However, he went on to stress that there are reasons other than financial gain to pursue university education, among which he included “self-development, the college experience, intellectual challenge and networking”.
With only 39% of students voting that their degrees will be worth it, some see this loss of confidence in university education as a direct result of the recent government higher education reforms. Sean Wyer, a second year Modern Languages student said: “The government’s market-driven attitude to education has the potential to infect prospective students, particularly those without experience of being particularly comfortable financially.”
Despite this, Smith sought to emphasise that although fees have gone up, so too has financial support for students. “Just as fees have increased, so has state funding; tuition loans are adjusted to cover the excess. Additionally grants and support provided by universities has been forced higher,” he said.
Wyer agreed that there are reasons other than career aspirations for attending university: “Nobody studies renaissance poetry because it’ll make them a fortune in an investment bank.”