Page last updated at 02:30 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 03:30 UK

New students 'face 23,000 debt'

Student library
Student debt is rising everywhere except in Scotland

Students starting university courses this autumn can expect to graduate owing £23,000, a survey suggests.

The Push Student Debt Survey of 2,024 students at varying stages of degree courses found debts averaged more than £5,000 a year and that this was rising.

Separate research by the National Union of Students suggests some degrees have higher "hidden costs" than others, such as for equipment or books.

The government said it was spending £5bn this year on student support.

The survey suggests the amount of debt students incur varies widely between regions and institutions.

Students in England have the highest levels of debt - an average of £5,271 for each year of study. In London some students say they will have over £30,000 of debt by the time they finish their course.

Debt levels in England have risen by 10% in the last year. They have also risen by 30% in a year in Northern Ireland, from very low levels five years ago, to an average of £4,324 a year now.


They are also rising sharply in Wales where annual student debts are an average £4,021.

But in Scotland, debt levels have fallen, with students owing £2,194 for each year of study.

Students in Scotland who are Scottish or from another EU country outside the UK have their tuition fees paid by the government, and students no longer have to pay back a graduate endowment after finishing their course.

Tuition fees in the rest of the UK are to be reviewed.

'Real headache'

Push interviewed 2,024 students in years one to four of their degree course, in person.

Johnny Rich, editor of, said he thought the recession was partly fuelling rising student debt.

"Finding part-time work has got harder and many students are facing real financial hardship and are worrying about what lies ahead.

"Even so, the advantages of having a degree still vastly outweigh the costs.

"These figures will give next year's review of student funding a real headache.

"They beg the question of whether we've now passed the point where students can be expected to stump up any more towards their education."

'Hidden costs'

The separate NUS study found that, for some university courses, students had to pay out more significantly more money in additional costs.

Students of maths and computer science spent the most - an average of £1,430.40 per year on books and equipment, the study said.

NUS president Wes Streeting said universities needed to "be more open".

"There should be better information, advice and guidance about student finance on university websites and in their prospectuses," he said.

Higher education minister David Lammy said the government was committed to ensuring cost was not a barrier to any student going to university, whatever their background.

"There are currently record numbers of students at our universities with applications at an all-time high.

"We want to widen access further, which is why we will continue to offer a generous package of support including bursaries, grants and loans at low interest that do not have to be paid back until graduates are in work and earning over £15,000 a year.

"Getting a degree remains a strong investment for a future career with graduates earning on average considerably more over a lifetime than people without a degree level qualification."

We asked you to tell us about your student debt. Please find a selection of your comments below.

I am a recent graduate from a London university. The numbers here are a little off when it come to study in London. During the three years I studied there I amassed a debt totalling just shy of £35,000. It does seem an awful lot when I have graduated but there are no jobs in the market that are taking on graduates, and that includes the I.T. sector.
Keith, London

I still will end up with £15K plus debts despite working and keeping budget under tight control. Universities at times cost hell lot of money in tuition, books, accommodation and travel. The last year of university is most expensive. It puts lots of pressure on you and knocks your confidence down at the end of education knowing you owe so much debt. Government should find a way where work and education can be integrated in order to reduce students debts.
Sach, Liverpool

I have graduated from university this year, and am lucky enough to have found myself a job but I owe over £20,000 to the Student Loans Company, plus interest. I also have a £1500 overdraft in a student account (now a graduate), which is maxed out, and am £200 into another overdraft on another account. The summer before starting university I managed to save over £1000, which is a good idea. But four years on, saving is impossible as I have debts up to my eye-balls.
Kelly, Huddersfield, UK

I'm off to uni this year and the financial situation is very scary. The current system for applying is flawed as it is. Costs are far too expensive, my accommodation this year is £94 per week, this has gone up from the £86 in the brochure. So my accommodation this year is over £4000, and currently I only have a student loan of £3500. I keep having second thoughts because of the cost - is this degree worth four years of debt and the possibility of not getting a job once I pass!?
Alexander Ioannou, Bourne, Lincolnshire

These quoted figures are the tip of the iceberg. I am about to commence my final year of dentistry (a five-year course). I would have liked to have done an additional optional year of study in a more focused area, but after reviewing my finances, I realised I will qualify £39,000 in debt! My younger brother also studies the same subject but is subject to the top-up fees meaning he will qualify with debt of £50,000! This is made worse because there is currently a shortage of placements for the vocational training year that I will have to complete after I graduate - meaning I am by no means guaranteed a job, despite the national shortage of dentists!!!
Simran, Ilford, Essex

I'm a student nurse going into my final year. Because I've decided to do the degree (Hons) my bursary has been dramatically decreased. If I were to follow the diploma pathway I would have kept my bursary, so I am being penalised for doing a higher qualification. To top it all, part of the study is placements within a practice area where we work shifts free of charge.
Sharon Takooree, Romford, Essex, England

I will be looking at a debt of over £20,000 after three years. I think tuition fees of over £3000 are too high considering the level of actual tuition over the year. However, students know the cost of university, and if they are not willing to accept that they will be in debt - then they are obviously not confident that they can obtain a good enough degree to get them a good job.
Ross Hill, Peterborough

I studied architecture and before fees were introduced. I owed £27,500 by the time I finished let alone the debt to 'bank of dad'! Add fees to that and an increase in cost for materials etc. and you're looking at £40k - £45k. When you graduate and start work for the first four to five years you're going to be earning £16k - £18k, trying to rent a flat and survive generally. The only benefit that an increase in fees is going to bring is going to be a reduced amount of people in architecture looking for work, because they won't sign up to the course in the first place!
Michael Blake, Manchester Currently

This is nothing new! I'm a medical student on a six-year degree course which I began in 2007. I'm currently on track to graduate £36,000+ in debt and to earn a starting salary much lower than many of my peers. This government can't talk about widening access to the medical profession when it is continuing to raise the level of debt that school leavers must be prepared to take on.
Jenny Worrall, Manchester

I left university three years ago with a relatively low debt. Once I started working I was earning just over the threshold to start repaying my loan. However, the payments that were taken did not even cover the interest that was accruing. Now I am faced with the situation that even though I have been making payments, my loan is larger now than when I left university. I have now qualified as a solicitor and been made redundant twice in six months. I know that my student loan is continuing to earn interest and there is nothing I can do about it. Currently, I feel that it is a debt that will never be repaid - I completely regret ever having taking it. I would have preferred to have struggled through uni with parental help and part time jobs.
Claire, High Wycombe, Bucks

I'm a student about to enter my third year reading Physics in a four-year course at Nottingham University. It's not just new students this debt is affecting - it covers most students back five years or so. I currently owe in the region of £10,000 and that's a reduced figure as I saved up around £3,000 before embarking on my studies. Upon attaining my degree I shall be in debt to the tune of £25,000 even whilst working a job during summer, Christmas and Easter.
Alex Faunt, Boston, UK

I think the system of student loans needs rethinking. I left university four years ago with £14,000 worth of debt, and as I have not been able to pay much of this back, the interest it has accrued now leaves me with a debt of over £17,000. To come out of university with this increasing debt hanging over you is not the way forward for young people.
Lou, Southampton, Hampshire

I have left university after just one year due to the huge amount of debt that I was building up. One of the main things that annoyed me was how the government told me that I have no right to any grants or bursaries because my parents earn over the earning threshold, which, according to the government means my parents can afford to throw a couple of thousand pounds at me willy nilly, just like the government give to my friends at university. Also I feel angered at how the Scottish government provides free university education to all EU students except rest of UK residents. To me, not only is it a slightly racist policy, but it angers me to think that the only way the Scottish government can afford to do this is through the taxes that UK taxpayers pay (i.e. 50 million English residents). Niggling matters like this are enough to push me over the edge and think is £7000 of debt a year worth it?
Harry Chown, Northallerton

As a medical graduate who commenced university in 1999, I graduated with a student debt of nearly £27,000, this is coupled with a surprisingly high annual interest ~£1000, an inability to purchase a house without a large deposit, a very average salary ~£24,000, and a career whereby I not only have to service my student loan but pay for my continuing education in order to progress in my profession - something that costs me approximately £5000 of my net salary per year! Would I do it again? No.
Ben Burrows, Newcastle

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