Who can afford fees?

| March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

As students in South Africa protested the rapid escalation of the cost of higher education in 2015, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently released survey results concerning university tuition fees across 34 countries.

The survey found that England’s fees are highest (approximately £9 000 per year), followed by the United States (US) (£5 300), and Japan (£3 300). England tops the list due to the government’s decision to triple fees in 2012.

In 2016, for example, the University of Exeter will charge an undergraduate a minimum fee of £4 500, an average fee of £8 948 and a maximum fee of £9 000.

In 2015, the first cohort affected by the 2012 decision to increase fees graduated. The UK Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has estimated that these English students graduated with an average of £44 035 of debt each. Seventythree per cent of them will not repay their debt in full – due, in part, to high unemployment.

Across the globe, Catherine (not her real name) is a young Australian with a master’s degree. She’s also struggling.

The Australian government has slashed and restructured its financial assistance plan for graduates needing help to repay fees. After graduating with a master’s degree in urban planning and environment, Catherine is still unemployed after a year of applying for jobs. She now works for free whenever she can to gain experience. She says she’s often exploited and overworked. Elsewhere, she’s shunned because she’s too qualified. Often, prospective employers think she’ll move on as soon as she finds something better. She’s tried for jobs at stores and restaurants, only to find that they’d prefer to hire school leavers for less pay.

In addition to having no healthcare, pension or other social benefits, Catherine’s degree left her with a bill due of AUS$30 000.

In Singapore, the issue of graduate employment is more complex. More and more graduates with top-class qualifications are taking entry-level positions. Says one: “Unlike our parents’ time, it seems like there are many people holding a degree now, but the fact is there are many jobs out there that do not require a degreeholder to do the work.” Consequently, young Singaporeans are taking posts that have nothing to do with what they studied at university. Increasingly, workers such as engineers have to take on entry-level roles in other industries, after their expertise becomes obsolete due to the development of new technologies.

In India, one in three graduates up to the age of 29 is unemployed. Universities and colleges turn out five million new graduates each year. In China, some 2.3 million graduates are rendered unemployed annually. In the US, the class of 2015 has been dubbed the most heavily-indebted graduating class in the history of US higher education, as each student will leave college with an average debt load of more than US$35 000.

In Africa, youth unemployment in Uganda is the highest on the continent, reaching a staggering 62%. Uganda also has the worlds largest percentage of young people under 30 years – 78%.

Category: Autumn 2016

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