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Opinion: The cost of a degree in the UK


Can we afford to let the young take the strain? As the debt burden rises for new UK graduates, something has to give to make better economics for the emerging generation.

67% of the UK’s 18 – 24 year-olds turned out to vote on June 8th, many for the first time. This figure is from the Ipsos – MORI poll records an increase from the 43% of the same age group who voted in 2015.

Now it seems that the young are not the apathetic group they have been taken for in previous election. If this improvement in turnout is to be a long term engagement with the political process in the UK then it will have a profound effect on all political parties. They are going to have to pay attention to the concerns of our young people and they are going to have to offer something to win their votes.


The Labour Party has renewed the national debate on University education. Given that 50% of our young people attend one of the institutions at a cost of £9,250/academic year, there are many voters and their families interested. These fees are reckoned to be about 20% higher then the public Universities in the USA ( see Economist July 8th 2017). Lord Adonis, a Cabinet Minister for Education under Tony Blair, accused the UK Universities as acting like a ‘cartel’ due to them all charging the maximum amount permitted by the Government.

Will this put our youngsters off applying to go to University? The evidence points against common logic that no, they are not put off neither by the £9,250/year or the overall cost of the experience which can be in the region of £50k..

The graduate burden has been eased somewhat by the Government only asking for repayment when the new recruit to the UK jobs market is earning £21k. Many may not get to this level so why should the debt put them off their three years in the sun? Anyway any outstanding debt is written off after 30 years so why not take the risk? What have you got to loose?

Well John Lancaster outlined what we may all be losing in his novel ‘Capital’ set in pre-2008 London. The middle classes watched with delight as their houses rose in value ( ‘Having a house on Pepys Road was like being in a casino in which you were guaranteed to be a winner’.) All was well until the local residents started getting mysterious postcards, ‘We want what you have’. Now as the millennials enter their thirties, still back with Mum and Dad, still wondering if they will ever get on the property and Life ladder, this plea rings true more than ever. The big question facing the UK is will they ever get what we have? think house, secure job, decent pension.

The Labour Party promised to scrap University Tution fees. An expensive policy to carry out, but it was mighty popular with young people at the polls on June 8th. Even the Conservative Party now realise they have to address policy to meet the needs and aspirations of the 18 – 24 year olds if they are to have any chance of returning to Parliament with a working majority that does not depend upon getting into bed with the equivalent of the Northern Irish Taliban and paying them wads of cah for the pleasure of being shafted at the same time.

We need to take the burden of debt from our younger generation. They need a fairer start, less debt, less pressure, more fun time to explore the possibilities of their generation. We the ‘Baby Boomers’ got this. The Millennials deserve at least the same chance. Maybe then we will all benefit from better productivity in a more highly skilled workplace.

Charlie McCarthy