The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Monday, 19 December 2011

An Education in Debt

My name is Lily , I’m fifteen and science is my thing. I really enjoy chemistry, physics and maths and I’ve always thought I would go to university and study something science based when I leave school. If you asked me today what that would be, I would say medicine.

Now, the Government say to have the country in debt is a bad thing, and that it reflects negatively upon the nation to be in this position. And yet it seems they want ME to get into HUGE debt.

How does that work? It doesn’t seem fair.

Because of cuts to their funding, universities will charge up to £9000 per year for tuition from September 2012. They are being forced into this. As well as tuition fees, I will need to take out a maintenance grant to cover my living costs. So much money. It frightens me. I know the Government will lend me the money upfront which I will have to pay back once I start earning above a certain amount.

If I take a 3 year course, I will be in debt of about £43,000.
I can’t even imagine what that looks like!
If I do a longer course, the money is obviously a lot more. The debt is intimidating.

Surely it is wrong to start our working lives with such a huge amount of debt?

Perhaps some of the politicians would like to know how this feels and repay their university fees? I expect not.

So should I still even consider university?
Maybe what I should focus on is a shorter course, then I’ll owe less money.
Maybe that’s the compromise.

I imagine there are some families where parents can pay for everything, making it an
easy choice. They will be able to go to Uni and do the courses they want.

A university education used to be based on academic qualifications, now it feels more linked to who has the right finances.

And surely education should be available to all?

I worry that things will change, fees might rise and the Government may change the way of paying the debt back. As much as my parents will help if they can, this is down to me, and I just don’t know if I can manage it.
Higher education is turning into a financial risk rather than something to aspire for.

I also feel very strongly that ambitions and life’s dreams are going to be thwarted because university seems such a risk.

Even worse, there might be a generation who grow up not having any as it is ingrained into them that their ambitions are pointless and unachievable.

There is also great pressure in choosing the right thing to do, Mr Rich from the BBC said,
“The size of debts means that it is increasingly important that students chose their university and course carefully. Basically you have one shot at this - you can return later in life, but it's a very expensive option. Get it right first time.”

It’s a daunting prospect, and I don’t know what to do.


Our guest blogger Lily's voice is just one of the many unheard, yet she speaks for many of the young generation.

These young people are told to work hard at school, to gain what academic qualifications they can in order to give them the best possible opportunities and choices.

Their choices are becoming more difficult and challenging: to further their academic study and face beginning a career smothered by debt; to join a increasingly longer unemployment line and come to be regarded as a scrounger; to be a part of the Workfare programme working for companies for a pittance with little opportunity for a job at the end. Just some of the real 'choices' available. Unless you have money.

I worry about the true impact of these cuts.

How many would-be doctors and medical specialists will consider other occupations? How many scientists and lawyers, teachers and civil engineers will society be missing due to the very real fear of debt? How many highly skilled professionals can our society afford to lose? What will be the cost to society if we have to constantly buy in specialists rather than create our own?
We run the risk of ending up with a society stuffed full of people with a raft of certificates, crippling debt, low self-esteem, broken dreams, and nothing more.

And these will be the parents and role models of the next generation.

If the Goverment really truly believed in giving young people real choice and real opportunities, they would consider the long term impact of tuition fees.

As Lily says, surely education should be available to all.

Back to top


  1. Such a massively important point about our government(s) wilfully throwing away talent - and hope.

    A 15-year-old, as bright as Lily clearly is, should not be worrying about future debt and feeling resigned to a make-do future.

    Resignation is what causes sink estates, riots, gangs, drug abuse and worse. How dreadful to be feeling hope trickle away in one's formative years. What a waste, and what crass stupidity, by our leaders.

    Lily, you write very well :)

    The government wants you to get into debt so that you can be more easily controlled: also, because they're too weak to tell the banks & multinationals to liven up and put in as much as they take out. Have you read George Orwell's 1984? It's 60 years old, but foretells quite a bit of where we might be heading.

    Fifteen is an excellent age to start politicising!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective, Lily. I really hope that you and your peers get to pursue your dream. You obviously have a bright future ahead of you, if given the opportunity.
    I hope that the government recognise the potential damage they are doing.

  3. Well spotted that contradiction Lily. Thatcher did us no favours when she suggested that a country's budget could be managed like a household budget. The ConDems have well and truly flipped that coin and landed in opposite land. Debt is a normal state of affairs for nations, it should not be for normal for our young people.

    Maybe I is confused? The government will be lending money to students to pay fees to the universities. If they've got any post-grad sense in this global market they will promptly get the hell off this island where their earnings will become invisible and their debts... well where will they go? Surely it would be better to invest the money thru increased university funding rather than lending it to students who may never be in a position to pay it back? I don't get it.... too entrenched in my outdated view that we should invest in future generations rather than fleece the be-jebus out of them I suppose.

    I don't say this smugly but I am glad I live in Scotland - if I didn't I honestly can't imagine I would be encouraging my children to follow a path that would see them start their adult life with a mortgage sized debt.

  4. Lily, very well said. My 16yo will not be going to University, I fear.

    What she will do ? I really don't know, and I lose sleep at night over it. The world looks a very scary place for our young people at the moment.


later posts

earlier posts