UCAS is over. But what is university actually for?

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Bury Free Press, 30th January 2015

It’s over. After months of furious personal statement writing, pestering for references and agonising over campuses and courses and cooking, it’s over. The UCAS (that’s University and College Admission Service) deadline has passed.

For many students in Bury, this begins the waiting game which can last months. Universities have begun the arduous task of wading through applications from thousands of hopefuls from across the globe. The UK has some of the best and most diverse institutions in the world, and the competition for courses here is high.

Over the last few years, applicant rates have been in sharp decline. The 2011 hike in tuition costs to £9,000 saw the number of students applying to study undergraduate degrees fall by 40,000. It is only with the new 2014 statistics that the number returns to that of 2010.

Yet, as a prospective undergraduate myself, I think the new system gives a fairer deal to students. Before the reforms, they loans were repaid directly to the university, sometimes from £15,000 salaries. That meant that graduates could be earning less than their degree-less peers, after the 9% reduction for the loan. That discouraged some from going, because there was no security of graduate salary.

But the value of university is not just in the job opportunities. University gives students a chance to explore a subject about which they are passionate, gain life experience and learn lessons about independent living. It makes sense that the Government now supports students, by allowing them a larger £23,000 safety net where no loan repayments are required. Yes, the economic benefits of degree-level qualification may never be realised if graduates stay in non-graduate jobs, but it is also the role of the Government to allow citizens to simply develop and learn, without an agenda. University for the sake of university is a good thing.

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