With the new government initiative to raise tuition fees for university education to an average of £9,000 per year, opinions among the new intake of 'Freshers' seems to be varied according to a recent survey by the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.
At most universities, the students paying £9,000 are getting exactly the same treatment as the people paying the previous fees of £3,500, which raises the question whether this is fair? A recent survey that asked 'What do you think is a fair cost in tuition fees for a 3 year degree?' showed that the majority, 51%, say £0-5000, 32% say £6-10,000 and the rest say £11-£16,000. However, students paying the larger fees seem to be pleased with their value for money, with 70% not having any complaints.
Initially, the increase in fees was going to be exclusive to top universities, but it seems even lower ranked institutions are raising costs. Kyra, 19, Essex started at Sheffield Hallam, (ranked 64 in the 2013 Sunday Times University Guide) this term and is so far happy with her experience. Her only concern is that when she graduates, she will lose out on jobs to graduates from more prestigious universities.
'I'll be annoyed if I come out of university having paid £30,000 and worked hard for my degree to find that a degree from my university isn't good enough for the job I want.'
The prospect of coming out with a £30,000 debt at the end of a degree with no guarantee of gaining relevant employment seems to have put some people off higher education. The fees seem to be the deciding factor in this major decision, swaying the 'maybes' away from university. The survey also showed that 40% of participants said they thought university is 'overrated', and so most of these people opted for apprenticeships or gaining their own experience rather than university.
Will, 18, from Essex spoke to people who are still working freelance and trying to get noticed after graduating from art courses. He realised that a degree in his chosen subject of art and design wouldn't be enough to guarantee him a job after university. He felt that £9,000 a year on top of living costs for an uncertain career path was too much of a risk, especially since going to University was meant to increase the likelihood of quick employment into high caliber positions. Instead of a degree, he has set about gaining as much art and design experience as possible to get a head start on the graduates he will soon be competing with. He has a small business designing and making bespoke cushion covers, an internship at a local design firm and a part time job as a barman.
'I am happy with my decision. I hope that in the long run, gaining skills and experience will help me get into the interior design industry and that the skills I gain will outweigh the fact that I haven't got an official degree.'
Some people are fortunate that there are other paths into an industry of interest to them, and the absence of a degree isn't necessarily an issue. But what about people who have to go to university for their chosen career; what do the additional costs mean to them? Ash, 17, from Hertfordshire is an aspiring medic and not put off going to university because of the fees.
'The fees didn't play any part in influencing what I wanted to study, they were more just an afterthought after I had decided'.
Additionally, he is not expecting more out of his university experience even with the increase in fees, as he understands the money is going back to the government, not the university.
The general consensus is that people who have a firm idea of their career and know a degree is a necessity for it are still applying for university education. However, if the industry you want to go into favours spending time gaining experience and skills over degrees, then the increase in fees has deterred some. The new first year students are generally happy with their courses so far and any issues they are encountering are perhaps not funding related. It seems if you want to go to university, you're going to go, no matter how much the government decide to charge. The university experience will be the same regardless of the fees, only the amount of debt- burden students have to carry upon graduation will be three times larger.
Written by Anna Pitts, Graduate Recruitment Bureau