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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK


Graduates in debt

A third of those who get jobs earn less than they expect

Almost a quarter of Britain's students now leave university with debts of more than £5,000, according to a bank survey.

Only 13% manage to leave without owing anything, according to a survey conducted by Nat West's market research department.

Most were in debt even though just over half of them had worked as students to help to pay their way on their courses.

Often the jobs were done during term time, which Nat West observes is bringing Britain more into line with the American experience. Regionally, this was far more likely to be the case in the north east of England (64%), with Wales at the lower extreme (38%).

A recent survey by the National Union of Students found that 42% of students were obliged to work during term time to meet the costs of essentials.

Back home

The amount the ex-students owe may be a factor in the finding that 30% have returned to live with their parents.

Nat West interviewed 1,100 people who graduated from universities in England, Wales and Scotland last year.

Seven out of ten have managed to find full-time jobs - which had been the biggest worry for 64%. A third said they would trade job satisfaction for a salary level that would eliminate the debts they had accumulated.

In practice, however, a third were earning less than they had expected they would.

Tuition fee doubts

There was enormous opposition to tuition fees. The fees were introduced for undergraduates starting their courses in this academic year - but only 20% of the recent graduates, who missed out on having to pay them, think they are fair.

Support for fees was higher in Scotland, where they have been a highly contentious issue in the negotiations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in forming their coalition in the new parliament.

A third of the graduates in Scotland thought they were a fair system.

Overall, 61% said they would have reconsidered going to university at all if they had had to pay the fees, which are means tested but can be up to £1,000 a year. Women would have been far more likely to have doubts than men.

The government plans its own survey of the income and spending of 2,000 full-time students and 1,000 part-time students over the summer. The review will be published next spring.

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