Record numbers apply to UK universities, but will it pay off?

Monday, July 27, 2020

 English students in the UK face the highest average tuition fees of any OECD nation as well as high costs of living


New research by student employer, Stint, reveals a worrying picture for English students in the UK, comparing OECD countries across indicators including fees, the cost of living, and employment prospects. In a new “value for learning” league table, the UK ranks =8th behind European counterparts including Denmark (5th), France (7th), Germany (1st), and Sweden (=5th) with cost of living, fees, and wage prospects post-university.

The league table reveals that English students in the UK face some of the highest costs to study in the world. English students face the highest average tuition fees of any OECD country, compared to French and German students whose fees are in the low hundreds. OECD data shows that 33% of UK students are employed while studying as they try to combat the high cost of gaining a degree. To add to English students’ financial woes, the UK faced inflation of 1.7% in CPI last year, double that of Spain or Italy.

At the same time, British students aren’t seeing the return on investment they hope to gain from university. While the UK remains second only to the USA in terms of the quality of its academic institutions, getting a degree in the UK is not having as significant an impact on their earnings as in many other OECD nations, including the United States, Spain, Canada, amongst others. The average graduate salary in the UK has remained stagnant for the last five years.

The findings highlight the need for the UK government to step up its support for learners, as the pandemic exacerbates the financial burden its students already face. In a recent survey, 80% of UK students said they were experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19. Other leading nations such as France, Germany, and Japan have introduced extensive funding packages to support students and are providing support ranging from digital devices sent to students homes, to thousands of temporary public sector jobs for students. A recent package of support announced by the Welsh Government has been criticised for falling short of what is needed and not ring fencing support for students.

Sol Schlagman, Co-founder of Stint said:

‘The UK has some of the best universities in the world and we should be proud of that. But these findings reveal that despite being charged some of the highest fees, many of our students aren’t going on to command the sorts of salaries that justify that investment. With the pandemic forcing students to think carefully about whether now is the right time to study, it has never been more important to ensure they’re getting value for learning.

‘Students here were already struggling with soaring fees and living costs, in many cases skipping lectures for work to support themselves. Stint is working to end that trade off by helping thousands of students to fit work around their studies. But we now need the Government to show the same level of support we’ve seen in other countries to help students through this pandemic. Without it, the UK is at risk of becoming a less attractive place to study.”