Is The Cost Of University Creating A Division Of Opportunity Between Rich & Poor?

This week sees the release of A level results, meaning that many young people will be eagerly looking to see what grades they got, and if they achieved enough to get into the university of their choice. However, there will be many others who have decided to take a different route, such as an apprenticeship. Here at NotGoingToUni we are all about choice and helping to show that there are different career paths available, however a recent report has caused concern that university may soon be the preserve of the wealthy.

University Debt & Prospects

The problem seems to be down to the levels of debt that students are being left with – particularly those who attend university in England. Mobility charity, the Sutton Trust recently revealed that English students who graduated last year after paying £9,000 per year in tuition left with an average of £44,500 of debt. This figure is higher than the debts faced by students in any other English-speaking country, including the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand - not to mention when compared to students in Europe, whose debts are often a fraction of those faced by many UK graduates.

The whole premise of this is that university graduates will earn more than their peers and can soon pay back this high level of debt. But, again, the statistics paint a different picture. A degree doesn’t necessarily make you more employable, and at worst university may actually turn out to have been a waste of money for most career-minded graduates!

Social Immobility?

These levels of debt may be turning non-white young people and those from the poorest backgrounds off of choosing university as an option. Research produced by the National Education Opportunities Network and supported by the University and College Union (UCU) showed that these young people would be more likely to choose low-cost university options should plans to further increase tuition fees go ahead.

Should this happen UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt warned, “We risk creating a polarised university system of haves and have-nots where costs determines young people’s choices.”

This would surely only serve to undermine the government’s aim to double the number of disadvantaged backgrounds going to university, as well as seeing 20% more students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds at university by 2020.

Of course, the real fear is that we are heading towards a situation where education is tiered depending on how wealthy you are. This may be especially true should fees be increased for the higher achieving universities – possibly creating a system where only those from more privileged backgrounds feel comfortable accessing the best universities.

Bad For Business?

If these fears do play out and the levels of debt associated with university become prohibitive then not only will young people suffer, but businesses may feel the impact too. A lack of diversity among graduates could mean that many jobs also become the preserve of those from wealthy backgrounds – which will lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace. This could be bad for business too as employers lose the different views and ideas of a more diverse workforce, potentially leading to one-track decision making.

Other Routes To Employment

So, what’s the answer? Some are saying that other routes into employment, such as apprenticeships, could be the answer. It is true that there are many careers which were only available to graduates are now accessible with an apprenticeship. However, there is more work needed to promote this option to young people, who are the least likely to see the merits of the apprenticeship system.

However, it is certainly worth looking at the apprenticeship options available before making a final choice on your future and the debts that university brings.

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