A degree of uncertainty

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WHAT jubilation. Another record year of A-level results in the city, but what lies ahead for those with their eyes on a university place?

What job chances for those who after three years at university walk out with a Mickey Mouse degree and into the real world, saddled with debts approaching £60,000 – equivalent to a small mortgage?

Once, buying your home was the biggest debt any of us had. And that roof over our head was a solid investment.

Now, even before they have earned a penny, young people reckon it’s ok to hang a millstone of debt around their necks.

When will they wise up that unless you are going for a job-specific course you could very well be wasting your time and money?

Never mind David Willets, Universities Minister saying student debt is still an investment. How irresponsible for him to say students should not be put off university.

How far we have strayed from the days when university was the route to true academic attainment.

It is no longer so for many who sign up for courses with dubious degrees.

It’s hard enough for those with a time-honoured profession in mind finding an opening, never mind those who fall for the spiel that a degree is their ticket to work. It isn’t.

So many should be thinking twice instead of being conned into believing how clever they are to get a place.

Universities are big business and the total cost for students starting this September is set to hit an average of £53,330.

Aside from average tuition fees of £26,310 for a three-year course, parents and students footing the bill will spend an average of nearly £12,500 on accommodation and more than £4,300 on food over three years.

Essentials such as household bills, books, and travel expenses also push up the total cost of attending university dramatically.

One in five parents who have children under 18 say they intend to foot the total bill for their children, according to the new LV Cost of University study with a further 28 per cent expecting to help fund part of the cost.

Just nine per cent of these parents say their children will be funding their further education unaided.

However, 21 per cent expect their children to attend university, but admit they have no idea how the cost will be funded.

How long before people wake up to seeing universities are cashing in on their belief that they have a right to go for the experience when they would be far better off looking for a job?

Too many fall into the trap of indulging themselves. They’re bombarded on all sides that university is the next step after A-levels.

While I am all for raising aspirations, what seems to have been lost, is this is a serious undertaking.

And never more so than this year with the hiking of tuition fees, which will double student debt from what was a staggering £26,000.

Few universities are holding back from charging the maximum £9,000.

While 15,000 students have chosen to give up on their university dream – there have been nine per cent fewer applications this year – there is still a frightening number who see this is as a rite of passage, even if they haven’t a clue what job they would like to do or what the course they have embarked on will fit them for.

There’s a question mark over so many courses and whether they will fit them for anything.

And that’s the hypocricy of universities, trading on the gullible and creating courses with not even limited job prospects, more like nil.

While I would never want us to return to only the privilleged being able to go to uni – for some this is already sadly the reality – it is highly questionable that parents who have indulged their children with whatever they have craved and gone into debt to do so – are now prepared to put themselves into further penury instead of being realistic about their child’s abilities.

Not everyone – even those with good A-level grades – is university material.

It’s high time to stop and think how to get their feet on the rung of a career ladder.

It may be volunteering like some I know, who have without any promise of a job, fallen in for just that by giving up their time to varied organisations, working with the elderly to helping Sunderland Community Furniture Service.

One friend’s son, with a degree under his belt, but no job in sight, started work at a call centre which has a graduates scheme he hopes to move on to.

The work ethic has been eroded and it’s time we got back to the old fashioned way of starting off somewhere.

The pity is there aren’t the apprenticeships there once were. But even in this desolate jobs climate, there are jobs out there – maybe menial ones, but who knows where they will lead if you are prepared to work your way up the ladder?

Far better than ending up with £50,000-£60,000 of debt. And if you don’t know really why the heck you are going to uni, why on earth would you want to be saddled with that before earning a bean?

There’s only one question to ask: Do I need to go to uni? And if so, what for?

Katrina’s naked ambition

KISSING cousins they are not, and cashing in on her royal connections is Kate Middleton’s second cousin, burlesque dancer, Katrina Darling from Fulwell, who stripped off for Playboy, and has reportedly pocketed a six-figure sum.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the Duchess of Cambridge’s sexy cousin would still be an unknown, performing her raunchy routines, but for the good fortune of the 22-year-old’s family links,.

They have put her naked on the front cover of the September issue and a further eight pages of steamy snaps inside, including one topless pose on a sheepskin rug.

The dirty dancer has never met her cousin and will no doubt milk this for all it’s worth, having choreographed a cheeky routine to mark the Jubilee, entitled God Save the Queen, flaunting a figure-hugging red corset, Union Jack skirt and small crown, before stripping off to reveal bright-red nipple tassels and a thong.

Katrina must be counting her lucky stars that a newspaper discovered her gran was sister to Kate’s great-grandfather and anything but the April Fool she first thought this revelation to be.

Doubtless more revealing poses are destined for the former bank worker, who has now got a nice little earner on Kate’s account.

Free fun for all the family

RUN out of ideas after all the rain with what to do with your youngsters?

Free, fun tips on keeping them entertained that don’t cost a penny, is the bright idea of WRVS and its Nationwise campaign.

Gran Geraldine Glenwright, 68, of Whitburn, who helps man the WRVS coffee shop in Sunderland Royal Eye Infirmary, is one of scores of volunteers who have happily passed on their rainy-day tips – from the crafty to cooking, games and puzzles to fine weather trips to the beach, nature trail walks and getting them to spot things and take notes.

When Geraldine’s girls were young, she used to round up the neighbourhood children for a game of rounders. It’s a shame so many mothers rely on ready-made entertainment and don’t have time to spend with their youngsters.

For wise words from the oldies, not just on entertaining the kids but also on managing when you’re jobless, dealing with bereavement and the secrets of a long-lasting relationship, visit www.wrvs.org.uk/nationwise

Ha’way Cheryl, man, yer hav’n a laugh

EEH Cheryl ah divvint knar wot’s gannin on, ye dating one guy an mekkin yer gob gan on hoo yer want Prince Harry to give yer a call.

Wot a reet merry dance fer yer new guy dancer Tre Holloway.

An ye reckon yer such an authority on the Royal Family.

We’s she kiddin? Arny hersel if she thinks she’s ivvor gannin to be a duchess by saying hoo much she luvs arl the royals and Harry in partic.

“He’s just a great lad.” Why, yer knar yersel. Sayin: “You know, you think the royals are untouchable.

“They’re actually really down to earth. I love ‘em.”

Hoo she gor a gob roond that, arl nivvor knar.

An last Sarrady neet she had the norve tweetin Olympic man Tom Daley, “I think you are amazing! Will you teach me how to swan dive.”

Pity it wasn’t her swan song.

The Axe – The Colling hitlist

LET the axe fall on the X Factor, back on our screens tomorrow night with a 75-minute edition which ITV bosses hope will bring a ratings bonanza.

After a summer of true Olympic heroes giving us a truly uplifting performance, now we are plunged into all that’s trite and talentless.

We should show our support by switching off.