42% Britons say grads will be better off in long-term, 41% disagree; 53% say Uni not worth £9,000

Against a backdrop of rising tuition fees and changing university entrances in England and Wales, just days after the release of A-level and GCSE results, the British public is split over whether graduates will end up worse off or better off in the long term, our poll shows, with people undecided over whether or not the increased earnings of future graduates will outweigh the costs of their tuition.

  • 42% think that under the new fees scheme, most graduates will end up worse off in the long term, as their increased earnings will be outweighed by the cost of going to university
  • 41% think that despite high tuition fees, most university graduates will still end up better off in the long term, as their increased earnings will outweigh the cost of going to university
  • 17% are not sure

Most universities will be charging fees of between £8000 and £9000 a year for tuition, which many have claimed is too high a price. The new fee plans prompted wide-scale opposition and violent protests when they were confirmed in 2010.

Under the new scheme, students will pay up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, via a student loan, which they will only begin to pay back if they get a job earning £21,000 or more.

University deemed ‘not worth it’

However, our poll found that more than half of Britons think university education is not worth £9,000 a year, and only one third think it is worth this much.

  • Around half of the public (53%) think university education is not worth £9,000 a year
  • 30% believe that a university education is worth £9,000 a year

At £9,000 a year, a three year university course will leave the average student at an English university with debt of £27,000 not including living costs throughout the duration of their study.

However, graduates can normally expect higher salaries than non-graduates over the rest of their working lives.

Fee waivers labelled a ‘false economy’

The BBC has reported that under the new system, some graduates could end up paying back double their original student loans. Accountants found that a student borrowing £39,000 for a three-year course could pay back up to £83,000 in total, in cash terms.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students has labelled the Government’s fee plans as “botched” and has expressed concern that regardless of repayment conditions, high fees and the debt associated with them will no doubt be a deterrent for less fortunate young people.

How is it beneficial?

Universities Minister David Willets has repeatedly defended the new scheme, saying that the repayments system was "much more like an income tax" and fairer than the old system, and that while University applications may have dropped this year, they were still high in comparison to previous years, only representing a drop in comparison to last year's peak.

Similarly, despite widespread criticism levied at the new system, well-known and popular personal finances website MoneySavingExpert.com has explained some apparent benefits to the scheme, with site owner Martin Lewis estimating that some repayments could be up to £540 a year lower than the past system, and highlighting that the higher threshold post-loan wage threshold could make it more likely that more loan recipients will not have to pay back debts at all.

Notwithstanding, Lewis has also highlighted that the level of repayments could mean that even graduates earning over £30,000 may not pay back the outstanding amount before the 30-year cut-off period (at which point the loan is written off).

See the survey details and full results here (page 11-12)

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