RISING tuition fees are not stopping Wearside’s sixth formers heading to university.
Despite figures this week revealing Sunderland University application numbers had dropped by 15.9 per cent, from 14,261 in 2011 to 12,079 this year, determined young people are still fighting for their place in higher education.
St Aidan’s student Jack Böke, 17, from Hendon, is taking A-levels in English Literature, history and general studies.
He plans on spending a year teaching English to raise enough cash to fund his degree, before going on to Cambridge or Durham.
Jack said: “It’s not because the tuition fees are so high, but because I don’t believe in getting into debt. I think we should pay for university because it is something you should earn. If you have drive and conviction you should be able to overcome your social strata.”
Pal Daniel Jefferson, 17, from Ryhope, wants to study linguistics at Lancaster before becoming a speech therapist.
“I think we should pay our way,” he said.
Mac Shakib, 18, from Ashbrooke, hopes to earn a place at Newcastle to study history and politics before moving abroad, where he thinks there will be more employment opportunities.
St Anthony’s student Christie Bainbridge, 18, from Barnes, wants to study history at Newcastle.
She says university is an “investment”, adding: “My parents said they will support me wherever I want to go.”
Friend Laura Alderson, 17, also from Barnes, would like to study in London.
She said: “I’d rather not have the fees or that they did not go up so much. The reason I’m going is to get a degree and try and get a job, because if you don’t, you’re going to end up in debt anyway.”
Abbie Bland, 17, from Ryhope, wants to go into teaching. She said: “It is quite worrying that I will end up in a lot of debt, but it is something I want to do.”
The youngsters shared their hopes for the future with Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliot and St Michael’s candidate Chris Johnson.
Ms Elliot said: “It was great to meet such a bright, motivated group of young people, who in spite of the obstacles this Government are putting in their path are clearly determined to continue with their education.
“The massive rise in tuition fees is going to make young people think twice before applying to go to university – making choices between applying or not applying, or perhaps applying to a local university so they can continue to live at home, rather than leaving home and going to the university best-suited to their academic needs.
“We are lucky in Sunderland to have an excellent university and others within travelling distance. We need our young people to gain the best possible education they can – in a competitive global economy education is key.
“I do not want to see money being a disincentive to education which I fear with this Government’s policies is going to happen.”
Mr Johnson added: “It is a credit to the staff at our schools that we are able to turn out such dedicated young adults.
“All of these pupils are willing to work hard in difficult circumstances to make sure they get the best possible education and best possible start to working life.
“St Michael’s ward is fortunate enough to be home to some of the best state schools in the region.
“These sixth formers are proof that the education system has been working well and I’m sure that whatever changes lie ahead – our teachers, governors, parents and pupils will ensure this level of achievement continues.”
“These pupils are taking important decisions in difficult circumstances. That they’re able to do so with such enthusiasm is a credit to the dedication of the staff, governors and parents.”
Durham has bucked the trend, with a rise in applications of 5.8 per cent.