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Over half of £9000 a year graduates didn't get value for money, new NUS report says


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A new NUS Report examines the attitudes of graduates on post-2012 fees – and finds 56% don’t think uni was worth the money.

Debt in the first Degree looks at the views and behaviours of the first graduates paying £9,000 a year, based on a questionnaire in which graduates give their opinions on student debt, the price of study, and the value of their university experience.

77% of graduates said that they were “worried” or “very worried” about their student debt; 43% thought their debt repayments would impact their standard of living; and a third of BME graduates were concerned about interest rates, viewing student debt as negatively as any other kind of debt.

This contradicts the idea that debt incurred through attending university is “good debt”, as opposed to “bad debt” incurred through bank loans, credit cards and over-extended overdrafts.

Sorana Vieru, Vice President (Higher Education) at NUS  said: “These results show how the myth of consumer empowerment is being questioned by graduates who, on reflection, are able to see that the quality of the student experience is not linked to an increase in tuition fees.”

She also pointed out that many students chose their university based on how much it would cost them; this if anything disempowers the consumer, limiting their options and decreasing social mobility.

The Conservative government has cited a record number of young people entering higher education as a sign that higher tuition fees work, but Vieru offers a different take.

Signs of an overall increase do not factor in a decrease in enrolments of mature and part-time students, nor does the government mention the fact that many students drop out before completing their studies due to lack of funds; for example, 80% of BME PhD students are unable to finish their studies.

Debt in the first Degree has been published in order to support the NUS’s #CutTheCosts campaign, which asks the government and MPs to vote against scrapping maintenance grants, reducing the cost to the individual student.

Sorana Vieru called for student action, stating that debt is a social construct, and that students can change the status quo if they let the government know that the current state of affairs is not acceptable.

However Peter Johnstone, a final year Spanish and Arabic student at the University of Oxford, is perfectly happy with his degree, and not worried about loan repayments.

“Given the new repayment structure for student loans, I am not in the slightest bit worried about my student debt, and I definitely do believe my studies are worth £9,000 a year – I have regular contact with world leaders in my chosen academic field, and whilst I believe that the studies themselves are worth more than £9,000, what I think is worth even more will be the degree I get out of it.”

The NUS has been for free education since its 2014 members conference, and will be supporting the Free Education demo on November 4, 2015, as well as helping Students’ Unions to mobilise members to join the protest.

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