The Push Student Debt Survey, carried out amongst 2,024 students at varying stages of their degrees, found that the average amount of debt amassed by each of them was currently in excess of £5,000 a year. The value of government funded student support for this year sits at a reputed £5bn and this is a figure that’s also seen to be rising with each passing year.
These findings were expanded upon in a recent study conducted by the National Union of Students. This suggested that there are some degrees have a greater amount of hidden expense than others. These hidden expenses would be for things like books and other equipment. It was found that students of maths and computer science were those that spent the most on these added extras. The average was calculated to be an extra £1,430.40 a year on equipment and textbooks.
The survey also highlighted patterns suggesting a great deal of variation in the levels of debt accrued by students attending institutions, in different regions. The greatest amount of debt belonged to students studying in England. The average amount of yearly debt in England is £5,271. However, in London students are reporting that they expect to have amassed over £30,000 of debt by the time they graduate.
Across England, debt levels have risen by 10% in the last year. Yet, in Northern Ireland, student debt has risen by 30% in the past year. The average amount of student debt was negligible as little as five years ago. The present average is around £4,324 a year and rising. Students in Wales are also experiencing a sharp rise in their debt, now averaging £4,021 a year.
In Scotland however, debt levels have actually fallen, with students owing a relatively paltry £2,194 on average, for each year of study. Of course, students in Scotland who are themselves Scottish have their tuition fees paid for by the government. Also, Scottish students no longer have to pay back their graduate endowment once they’ve completed their study.
The general consensus remains to suggest that having a degree is certainly going to be more valuable than not. However, the Confederation of British Industry says the aim for at least half of Britain’s young people to be educated to degree level should be abandoned. Its higher education task force does support the view that further study is vital to the country’s economic future and it rejects options like cutting teaching budgets. They would rather that savings come from the student support system. This would entail a reduction in the subsidy on student loans, a greater degree of means-testing in calculating support and a hike in tuition fees.