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How should Higher Education be funded?

6 Oct

It’s a topic that is has been particularly highly debated over the last year, promises were made in the election campaigns, students were canvassed for their votes and Universities demanded more money. However, now we have a coalition government who doesn’t seem to be sure about how they should proceed. The Liberal Democrats promised to scrap University tuition fees for first degrees and the Conservatives covered their backs by saying ‘We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to: increase social mobility; take into account the impact on student debt; ensure a properly funded university sector; improve the quality of teaching; advance scholarship; and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.’.

However, now it is time to see some action and some decision from our new Government. The average student comes out of their first (3 year) degree owing over £21,000 in student loan and tuition fee loan. That’s providing they don’t get into any extra debt through credit cards or other loans. The system isn’t working, we’ve blogged already about the amount of trouble Student Finance England have been in and the stress it has caused countless students trying to access funding.

Yesterday, the Guardian published some views on the Browne review of higher education funding and spoke to student and staff representatives from Kingston University. Their opinions are interesting, and seem to back up the general consensus that the current system is not fair, but what the ideal solution would be is undecided.

The current system allows students from low-income families or disadvantaged backgrounds to access a wealth of funding, however those students coming from middle-class families with an average income are left with very little grant and a lot of debt.

We don’t know what the solution is, without a pot of money to pay for everyone’s degrees there isn’t an easy option. Graduate taxation doesn’t sound ideal and just means you face longer as a new graduate before you are able to start thinking about getting on the property ladder or having any financial security. The way grants and loans are administered at the moment isn’t right either, with many students from a ‘typical’ university-goer background missing out on funding or saddling thousands of pounds worth of debt. Increasing tuition fees to a potential £10,000 a year would more than triple the debt students come out of University with – not a good way to start your career.

What do you think? How should our degrees be funded? Has opening the doors of Higher Education to everyone meant that a degree isn’t worth as much in the job market? How do you fund your degree/living now? Let us know!

It’s a tricky one!

Love

Clever Student Money

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?

15 Sep

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?.

Whilst this won’t affect us right now (remember the Lib Dems campaign trail…student fees to be abolished with immediate effect?), it is still important to think about what is going to happen.  Surely this broken system can’t survive much longer?

What are your thoughts?

CSM

Ahhh! It’s time to pack!

2 Sep

It’s now the 2nd of September, most Freshers are now just a few weeks away from installing themselves into their chosen Halls and preparing to hit Freshers’ week with a vengeance. But first, you have that tedious task of packing. What do you think you’ll need? And how much does it differ from what your parents think you need? No doubt the two lists differ massively, our list hopefully comes somewhere in the middle but definitely contains all the best time and money saving ideas that will keep Mum happy and gets you to University ready to party (study….we definitely mean study).

This isn’t a comprehensive list, however there are a few key items that will really save you time and money if you can get them before Uni, these are our suggestions to help you make the most out of those key first few weeks where the last thing you want to be doing is trailing around the shops trying to find a doorstop.

So first thing on the Clever Student Money list is:

A good cookery book: We recommend The Virgin Student Cookbook. It is a great book, simply written with yummy cheap recipes that are going to keep vital cash in your wallet, good food in your belly and not going to take hours of socialising (sorry, studying time) away from you. You can pick it up for less than the cost of a pizza from Amazon and although it is a few years old, we still haven’t found one that is as good fun to learn from. It also has some great cocktail recipes and hangover cures!

A Wok: One thing we learnt whilst living in Halls is that things go missing/get broken/get used by flatmates who don’t know how to wash up. So the number one rule for kitchen equipment at University is don’t spend lots of money. Our favourite (and most used) item in the kitchen was the Wok. It’s easy to throw together quick stirfrys, you can cook bolognese in it, stews and soups could all be made in it. It heats up quickly and holds a lot! We have even used it as a mixing bowl when making Birthday cakes. Ikea do one for £2.39, yes you did just read that right. It is good quality and lasts well. Definitely a must-have.

Cheap cutlery: Absolutely do not bother spending more than a few pounds on cutlery as it will go missing. It is easily thrown into bins, misplaced, borrowed and probably eaten. Our tip is to take more than one fork, knife and spoon. You can usually pick up 4 sets for a fiver from places like Ikea.

Bottle opener and Corkscrew: One way to make friends very quickly is to be the only one who remembered to bring a corkscrew. A favourite way of saving money for many students is to ‘pre-drink’, that is have a few drinks at the flat before heading out. Having a bottle opener or corkscrew on hand is essential in this situation. (Note…we do advocate sensible drinking! Honest!). Pick up one for a quid at Ikea or the Pound Shop.

Tupperware: This is our other money saving kitchen essential. It is hard to cook for one person, the best and cheapest way to cook is in batches. Make enough Spag Bol for 4 or 5 people, freeze 4 portions and eat one portion now! Tupperware come in useful for putting food in the freezer and fridge. Pick up a variety of sizes, they don’t have to be posh ones like your mum has. Just save some plastic takeaway boxes and lids, or alternatively places like a Pound Shop or Wilkinsons will have cheap options.

There are lots of other things for the kitchen that you will need to cook for yourself, we’ll mention some more vital pieces of equipment in our Cheap Eats series of blog posts that will be starting soon. Most good student cook books also have a list of items that will be useful to you.

Ikea, Wilkinsons and Pound shops are all good places to pick up cheap equipment. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much money on expensive equipment as Halls in your first year is the best place for it all to get wrecked, broken or lost!

Out of the kitchen, there are all the obvious things that you need to take and we refuse to patronise you by listing them for you (but please please don’t forget underwear!!). So what else is going to help you save time and money in those first few weeks?

Clothes Airer: You will no doubt have access to a launderette somewhere in your halls or on campus. However, the tumble dryers NEVER dry your clothes well at all. There is absolutely no point in pouring your cash (almost quite literally) down the drain by using tumble dryers for hours. We recommend picking up a clothes airer. One of those that collapse down flat and hold a lot of clothes. If only to dry smaller items such as T shirts and underwear. It will save you a lot of time waiting for your laundry, and pounds in drying costs. Don’t forget that as part of your halls fees, your heating is paid for – so whack the radiator up and get the clothes dried quickly for free!

Printer: Printing costs at University libraries are not economical, although there are upkeep costs to having a printer, it invariably will save you money in the long run. Printing at your University can be anything up from about 5p per sheet. When you have several essays that need handing in, these costs soon mount up. It is now possible to get cheap printers, ink can be refilled and reams of paper cost a few pounds. Definitely worth the initial outlay. Don’t forget that if you are Dyslexic or Dyspraxic you can get Computer equipment paid for and allowances for paper and ink to help you. Check with your university student support centre for more information.

Doorstop: Technically this isn’t money saving but we think it needed to be included! Most Halls rooms have self-closing doors which are fire doors so are usually heavy. The most sociable thing to do is to prop your door open, (yes, we know you are usually told not to…but everyone does), it will help you meet people, feel less isolated and generally have a few laughs. Usually about a £1 from a Ironmongers, Pound Shop or Market they are a good addition to your new bedroom!

Fancy dress: A bit of a silly one, but surprisingly expensive! Take any items of Fancy Dress that you own with you to University, you’ll be surprised at how many themed nights there are. Especially useful if you join societies (which we recommend!) as you’ll have lots of socials to attend. Of course there is always Primark but if you’ve got some accessories on hand, it will definitely lower the cost!

Chargers: For your laptop, phone, MP3 etc etc. This doesn’t need explaining – just don’t forget them!

Good bike lock: If you are taking your bike to University, we recommend investing in a good D-lock, they are much more sturdy than coiled locks. We also recommend keeping your bike in your halls bike sheds if this is available. Usually they are only accessible by a key and often are monitored by CCTV. Taking your bike to University saves you money on bus fares, gym fees and also keeps you on time for those early morning lectures!

Things you definitely do NOT need to take.

Stationary: Freshers’ Fayres are the best place to pick up a year’s worth of pens, pencils and paper for no cost at all! You really don’t need to waste valuable space in the car on stationary. Though we do recommend taking your A Level notes for relevant subjects. Also, a few ringbinders will help keep you organised. Most universities have student shops selling cheap stationary though, so it is probably worth while waiting until you are settled in before buying more.

Text Books for your course: the cheapest option is never the most advertised! Most courses offer bundles of books for several hundred pounds. It is really not usually necessary to buy all the recommended texts. Your University Library will have several copies that you can borrow when necessary. If you are desperate to key texts, then head to your school noticeboard to buy books from 2nd and 3rd years. Other places such as Amazon, Ebay, abebooks.co.ukjscampus.co.uksellstudentstuff.com may be able to provide cheap second-hand copies.  Alternatively, try a book-swapping website, such as Bookmooch or ReadItSwapIt for free texts.  University text books can be £70-£100 per book. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that hundreds of pounds can disappear on text books!

Car: this is highly debated but take time to carefully consider the pros and cons before taking your car with you to University. You are faced with not only insurance, upkeep and fuel costs, but also with very little parking around campus and even less in city centres. You also become the taxi for everyone in your flat – especially when it comes to supermarket shops! Think carefully, with a student rail card – getting home can be cheaper by train.

So that is the pick of the money saving items to take with you to Freshers…however we will be mentioning more things over the next few weeks.  If you have a great idea that we haven’t mentioned then let us know! Comment on this blog or email us at savvystudent@gmx.com

By the way…

If you really can’t figure out what else you need to take to University with you and need a comprehensive list (yes it includes underwear  and toothpaste)…then check out this list at The Student Room.

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