A major new report has revealed that nearly 50% of the first set of graduates to pay £9,000 a year tuition fees have moved back in with their parents.
The current rate, which provoked large scale student protests when introduced in the 2013/14 academic year, has been accused of failing to address the issue of providing sustainable funding for education.
The latest figures, published by the National Union of Students, surveyed graduates between February and March 2016, seven months after they left university. Of those questioned, 47% were living with their parents or guardians – a figure rising to 52% for graduates aged under 25.
In terms of employment, income varied dramatically according to gender and academic discipline. Three times as many male graduates were earning over £30,000 compared to their female counterparts, while double the amount of women than men said they were earning £15,000 or less.
The report also highlighted a growing concern that students are being priced out of the consumer and property markets in many areas of the UK.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that regulated rail fares will rise by 1.9%, an amount which the TUC said was double the average increase in wages. The increasing price of housing is also a concern, with less than 3% of graduates under 25 managing to get on the property ladder according to the NUS research.
71% of graduates remained concerned about their level of student debt, despite the government setting the repayment threshold at £21,000 (which is said to be the average starting point for a graduate salary). An additional 60% of respondents stated that they were still repaying consumer debt from during their degree, the average amount being £2,600, while 46% admitted that they had accumulated further debt since leaving university.
The government also recently announced that the repayment threshold for loans will be capped at the current rate £21,000 for the next five years, despite expectations that it would rise along with the rate of inflation. Amid warnings from experts that the current funding system is unsustainable, NUS research found that more than three quarters of graduates were now concerned the government would change the terms of their loans to make them pay back a larger amount.
NUS President Sonia Vieru said that the report showed the ‘double jeopardy’ faced by graduates, suggesting the current generation now reap far fewer benefits due to increased degree costs and lower wages and welfare support.
A Department for Education spokesperson told the Independent:
Graduates continue to enjoy higher employment rates and an average £9,500 annual earnings premium compared to non-graduates.
As the OECD has recognised, our student funding system is sustainable, supporting our world-class universities while ensuring graduates only pay back when they are earning above £21,000.
We know there is still more to be done to address variability in graduate earnings – which is exactly why we are reforming the system through measures such as our Teaching Excellence Framework, which will incentivise all universities to raise the quality of their teaching and focus on improving graduate outcomes.
Graduates questioned also expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of their degrees. Half of those surveyed said they believed that their degree was not worth the amount they paid, and 6% said if they could go back they would have decided not to go into higher education at all.
Fees are now set to rise to a new high of £9,250 for universities showing good teaching standards under the Teaching Excellence Framework. In an open letter to students earlier this week, Universities Minister Jo Johnson attempted to play down concerns over the increased cost, stating the reforms would set students up for life.