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One month ago, the BBC reported the record number of students gaining places at university this year through clearing; up to 17,420 of 18-year olds were believed to have been accepted to establishments they had never applied to, the day after A-level results came out. That’s 2,260 more than last year. But with such a high number of students desperate to attend university, is this decreasing the value of a degree?
It appears as though anyone, no matter their qualifications, can get a degree and, with more absurd named degrees coming out of the woodwork, it is no surprise that university is now becoming more of a social and cultural experience than the education itself.
It has almost become a societal expectation for teenagers to attend university, as parents appear as though they cannot wait to pack their children off for 3 years. Granted, university does open up opportunities for students that they wouldn’t get anywhere else. They gain a sense of independence and freedom they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience straight after A-levels. It is their first proper taste of ‘adulthood’ as they are able to build a social life around their studies with the various societies offered at university, as well having the ability to legally drink with their peers. There is also evidence to suggest that you are more likely to get a higher paying job quicker as a graduate than as a non-graduate.
However, even if you do get a decent paying job upon graduating, you have still got the loans to think about paying off. Student tuition fees are at their highest at £9,250, meaning that along with the high amount of student debt and the lack in graduate schemes out there, the idealised expectation of attending university may be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, it is a very expensive venture considering the lack of contact hours, particularly in humanities degrees, which can have as little as 2 contact hours a week in third year, meaning you are effectively paying nearly £10K a year to use the library for personal study.
As well as little contact hours, the terms are painfully short. Over the two-and-a-half months of summer holidays, students are left twiddling their thumbs; bored out of their minds at home with nothing to do but either work temporarily or find meaningless ways to numb their boredom. Even upon graduation, students more often than not end up returning home to live with their parents, stuck back where they were 3 years ago – only this time holding a very expensive piece of paper. It is no wonder post-university depression is becoming an increasing issue among graduates.
At the end of the day, most students are in the same boat: out of higher-education in a lot of debt with no way of paying it off. However, the social experiences at university are unique ones rarely replicated elsewhere. So why should the worry of student debt put you off? You will probably never pay it all off anyway.