It is impossible to talk about university these days without mentioning the rise in tuition fees, which are possibly going to rise again. But the up to £9,000 course fees are not the only aspect of university life that brings up the question, Is University for the rich?
The vast majority of students rely on money from Student Finance to fund them through their degree, and whilst this is the only way that many students can afford to go to university, there is often a gap between how much money a student is given and how much money they actually need to live off. According to the National Union of Students (NUS) website the average cost of living for a student in England (excluding London) costs up to £5,500. The ‘average’ student gets £4,335 in loans for their living cost per year. So how are students expected to fund the gap?
It is not just the cost of tuition fees and the cost of living that are expensive. Reading is an essential part of any degree subject, with both essential and recommended reading. To stay ahead of the game it would seem logical to purchase all required books before the start of term so that you can get ahead with the reading. But this is not always possible. In my experience a text book can cost anywhere between £5 and £60. Often it is required that you purchase the latest edition of a book, meaning that not only will you be paying more for it in the first place, but it will also be harder to sell to a younger student after you have finished with it because it will likely be out of date as a new edition will have been issued.
It is highly unlikely that an undergraduate student will read in detail more than a couple of chapters of any given book, but as it is not possible to get around having to buy the whole book, it begs the question of whether it is a waste of money.
Official data has been published that states that wealthier people are three times more likely to apply to university than people from poorer areas. Could it be that the cost of university is just too much for some people?
My understanding is that with the new higher tuition fees came the idea that the universities would provide the textbooks needed for the course, so obviously this will not be a problem for new students, but as I am now in my third year, my experience has not been like this.