How to keep down the cost of a degree
University living costs make up a sizable chunk of student debt and while many teenagers choose to move away from home and live on campus, it is not the only way to do it.
Students in London are more likely than those elsewhere to commute from home to university each day, saving thousands of pounds on rent, energy bills and food costs.
At City University, for instance, 80 per cent of students travel daily into class. Institutions are increasingly focusing on this group and looking at ways to make their lives easier. Queen Mary University student union has a dedicated Commuter Students Society so young people can connect with others on their route and find a travel buddy.
The University of Law has 16 campuses around England, which means you can study locally. Predominately law-focused, there are also undergraduate courses in business, criminology and psychology.
The university tries to ensure fuller days of teaching, rather than lecturers and seminars dotted throughout the week, freeing up days for part-time work or other commitments. The university also offers a two-year accelerated law course, wiping out a whole year of tuition fees and living costs.
“Our flexibility is one of our great strengths,” says Abi Pritch-Williams, senior access manager at the University of Law. “Because we have campuses all over, students can pick where they want to be and don’t have to live in student accommodation if it doesn’t suit them or they can’t afford it. As a result we have a very diverse intake and students from underrepresented backgrounds.”
Prospective students will know that money will be tight. But all universities have scholarship and bursary schemes that can provide vital funds to keep your head above water.
Some are based on financial need but not all. At Newcastle University, for instance, a mixture of competitive and means-tested scholarships are on offer to undergraduates, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths.
According to UCAS, less than a third of freshers apply for bursaries or scholarships because many presume they are not eligible but it is well worth checking university websites for the criteria and speaking to student finance offices.
All universities have scholarship and bursary schemes that can provide vital funds to keep your head above water
A scholarship from the Dr Ateh Jewel Education Foundation enabled Peach James to study cosmetic science at University of the Arts London (UAL). The graduate from Redbridge, in east London, was one of 12 student recipients of a scholarship, funded by companies that want to drive diversity within their business area. Procter & Gamble and Olay are supporting the foundation with funding and a mentoring programme aimed at helping aspiring black and mixed-heritage students to get a foothold in STEM careers within the cosmetics industry.
“Not only has the fund allowed me to connect and network with people at university and in industry who I otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths with, it also allowed me the financial freedom to explore my interests without having to worry about cost,” says Peach.
Now in its second year, the foundation aims to support a further 14 students in participating universities to achieve their full potential and career dreams.
It is one of a number of funding pots that have become available in recent years for undergraduates from ethnic minority backgrounds. Cardiff University, in collaboration with the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation, launched new scholarships for financially disadvantaged black British students last year, covering tuition fees and provide funding to cover maintenance and living costs.
It is also worth seeking out financial support packages from external organisations and charities. The Royal Television Society offers bursaries for students starting courses related to TV production, journalism and digital innovation, while the Law Society Diversity Access Scheme has funds for young people who are the first in their family to attend higher education, among other criteria.
For an increasing number of students, getting a job during term time is necessary to stay afloat. From babysitting to bar work, the part-time job market looks pretty healthy in the post-Brexit era. Sites such as Studentjob can fix you up with local vacancies in a variety of industries. Demand is also booming for students to sign up as tutors to work on children’s Covid catch-up programmes.
Imogen White, a third-year undergraduate at the London School of Economics, found her part time role on reception at her halls of residence on the LSE jobs website. Her wages make an enormous difference to what she can do, as well as her peace of mind.
While balancing the demands of a degree course with a job can be tricky, Imogen found her work responsibilities helped to give structure to her day and set deadlines.
“I had to get up at 7am to be at my shift between 8am and 2pm and I knew that the time afterwards had to be spent doing my university work or I knew it wouldn’t get done,” she said.
Part-time or temporary work may be vital to your bank balance, but it is also a way to improve your CV and develop the skills, experiences and confidence that graduate employers are looking for.
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