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23% of students are worried they might have to give up their studies because of their financial situation

03 September 2014
  • Over a fifth (22%) believe that having to work while at uni is affecting their studies
  • 36% of students think courses should be condensed from three or four years to two years
  • Current UK university students estimate that they will owe on average £16,514 by the time they finish their course

New research reveals that almost a quarter of current undergraduates fear they might have to give up their studies due to their financial situation.

Commissioned by Gocompare.com, the survey found that a third of students say the amount of time they spend worrying about their finances is affecting their studies, while 22% believe that having to work to pay the bills while studying is having a similarly negative effect.

The study, conducted with 1,000 current UK students about to go into their 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of university, provides a snapshot of the financial realities at university and includes students impacted by the most recent changes to tuition fees in England.

As a result, the picture across the UK is varied with 40% of students saying they expect to owe less than £10,000 at the end of their course, but 20% think the figure is likely to be more than £30,000.  On average, current students estimate that they will owe £16,514 by the time they finish their course, but in Scotland the figure is just £12,048.

Humanities students expect to owe the most (£22,253) followed by art (including music, design and drama) students (£18,981) and language (including English) undergraduates (£17,476), while law students had the lowest anticipated final debt of £13,068.   Despite expecting the lowest final debt, more law students (34%) than any other group said that they might have to stop their studies because of their finances.   

Current students are funding their studies in a wide range of ways with 46% saying they are using their own savings, 28% are relying on family savings, 23% are using maintenance grants, while 18% have a bursary and 12% a scholarship.

26% of the undergraduates taking part in the survey had a part-time job. Those studying for an education or teaching degree (41%) were most likely to have an income from part-time employment, but despite their money worries, law students were the least likely (14%) to have a part-time job.

When asked whether they would advise other people to go to university the majority (66%) of those surveyed said they would, while 9% said 'no, it's too expensive' (a view held by 17% of language students). Just over a quarter of undergraduates (26%) said they would recommend students to go to a local university or college so they could save money by living at home.   

The survey also revealed that:

  • 36% of students think university courses should be condensed to two years.  Over half (51%) of maths (including accountancy and finance degrees) students thought courses should be cut down 
    12% think that their student loan is going to be a lot larger than they'd expected
  • 16% of undergraduates have no idea how they are going to pay off their student debt
  • 36% think tuition fees are putting people off going to university
  • Half of those surveyed think schools should provide more financial education
  • 45% said that universities should provide students with more financial support and advice

Claire Peate, customer insight manager at Gocompare.com, commented: "Some of the projections about student debt levels post-tuition fees are eye-watering and will certainly be a concern to any parent with a child at university or thinking of going.  Our research reveals that the picture is very mixed at the moment, and the full impact of the new regime in England is yet to be felt.  However, it is very worrying indeed to learn that almost a quarter of current undergraduates think that they might have to give up their studies because of their financial situation. 

"While the amount of debt you finish university with will often depend on where you go to university and how much financial support you receive during your course, it also comes down to how well you budget and how savvy you are with bank accounts and credit cards.  For most students it will be the first time they have had to manage all of their financial affairs, and that often means learning on the job, and fast."

Gocompare.com has produced an online guide to student finances: