Is a traditional degree value for money, or behind the times?

By Nigel Tate: Political Columnist

2020 has not been the best year for a lot of us. Even in these dark times, students are embarking on a new adventure by attending university this year, though the pandemic has ruined the university lifestyle for many.

Due to government guidelines minimising students from getting to know each other, as well as traditional classes now taking a more online route. As universities are becoming increasingly virtual, should we pay £9250 in yearly tuition fees for essentially a zoom membership?

University is not only about achieving a degree, as the university ‘experience’ is also a crucial element. These experiences shape our progression into adulthood, such as socialising, living independently, and discovering our interests. The two-week quarantine period may be key at stopping the spread of the virus, but could also damage our mental health, as students will be confined to their rooms. University can be very daunting for some, and therefore ‘welcome week’ is pivotal for allowing students to introduce themselves to their future housemates and people on their course. Without these necessary face to face interactions, is it really worth going to university?

The transition to online schooling affects both quality of education and mental health. Travel restrictions, imposed by the government, have caused international students to start their university journey via their laptops. With these new limitations, if unable to enter the UK, accessing zoom under their country’s time-zone could mean waking up as early as 3am in order to attend class. Poor sleeping patterns, as a result of this, can really hinder a student’s ability to learn by putting a strain on their mental and physical wellbeing. With this new outlook of university life and mental health issues expecting to rise, what services has the government provided to support the students?


the social aspect of uni life is a source of valuable development complimenting the degree

The government has acknowledged that the pandemic has made it difficult for students to cope. Michelle Donelan (Minister of State for Universities) emphasises how mental health should be the number one concern, regardless if you are a national or international student. The government, thereby, have partnered up with OFS (Office for Students) to increase the access to welfare services within English and Welsh universities, by investing a further £3million to help combat mental health problems such as stress and anxiety.

On 2010, the Conservative government passed a bill tripling tuition fees from £3000 to £9000. While the University Minister at the time (David Willetts) described this moment as a “progressive” step in the right direction, many who opposed the bill echoed Gareth Thomas’ view that this was a “tragedy for a whole generation of young people”. With tuition fees constantly rising (currently at £9250), how can the government justify this under the present circumstances?

European System

When comparing the British education system with the likes of Sweden, are we really moving in the right way? Sweden has subsidised education at all levels, including zero tuition fees for their universities. Unlike the majority of other governments, Sweden has prioritised education over other policies, believing that investing in the next generation would be both beneficial for individuals and the workforce to thrive.

With students either missing out months of their education or attempting to manage with the recent change, education, now, should be considered a main priority. As mentioned before, we are entering a new form of normality. Students will begin their university journey filled with many uncertainties. So we wonder, what more will the government do to assist them during this challenging time?

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