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University students ditch social life in quest for decent degree

UNIVERSITY life has always been seen as time of long lies, daytime television and cheap beer, but a new survey claims today's students are shunning a social life in favour of study as good grades are increasingly seen as the key to career success.

 MAKING THE GRADE: Students in Scotland realise that a 'good degree' is vital to boosting career prospects.  Picture:  Martin Shields
MAKING THE GRADE: Students in Scotland realise that a 'good degree' is vital to boosting career prospects. Picture: Martin Shields

Although students in Scotland still seem to be having more fun than the UK average, three quarters felt that a good degree was essential to boosting their career prospects after graduation. In fact, 88% of Scots students - compared with a national average of 84% - felt under pressure to achieve at least a 2:1, a minimum requirement for many employers.

The biannual Sodexo University Lifestyle Survey, which polled 140 universities and 2000 students across the UK, paints a picture of undergraduates hitting the textbooks in a bid to avoid becoming another youth unemployment statistic.

However, the overall results showed that barely a third of those at university saw higher education as a guaranteed route to success.

Jane Longmore, co-author and validator of the survey, said: "This year's survey results suggest that a time bomb may be ticking: the percentage of students who think of higher education as 'the next obvious step' diminished from 42% among second and third years to 35% among the most recent cohort.

"This finding prompts an interesting question: would nearly two-thirds of students be drawn to a plausible alternative to higher education if their return on investment could be better justified elsewhere?"

Ms Longmore pointed to the example of Australia, where a cap on tuition fees in 2008 has boosted student numbers by 20% on average.

Although Scottish students are exempt from tuition fees, 28% of undergraduates in Scotland said they envisaged leaving university with debts of at least £30,000.

Social lives and part-time jobs are both feeling the squeeze as university becomes an investment rather than an experience for many.

More than three-quarters of respondents across the UK said they spent £20 or less a week on socialising - up from 61% in 2012.

In Scotland, almost half of students blamed a lack of money for curbing their social lives, while Scots students were more likely than those south of the border to balance part-time jobs with study.

The survey found that 56% of Scots students were working 11-20 hours per week, with the high cost of living in Scotland believed to be behind the trend. Outside of London and the South East, student rents are highest in Scotland with more than half paying £300 a month each - usually for a room in a shared flat or house.

Nonetheless, students in Scotland were less likely than others in the UK to feel isolated or stressed about their academic workloads.

The latest survey backs up findings from the previous two studies which indicated that UK students have become increasingly worried about debt, career prospects and grades over the past six years as the recession saw unemployment among young people - including graduates - balloon.

However, Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said the findings showed that students were clear about their priorities.

He said: "We've always rejected the idea that students go to university for parties first and a degree second.

"The opportunities that post-16 education - and particularly a degree - opens up aren't overstated, and students do take that incredibly seriously. Particularly at a time of such high youth unemployment, it's understandable that more and more students are concerned about their future prospects, and are focused on getting a good degree and a job after it.

"Thanks to distinctive policy of free education that Scotland maintains, we've also managed to avoid any dangerous notions of students as consumers. Instead, we want to see an education system which values students as partners. At the same time, we shouldn't underestimate the huge importance that opportunities outside the classroom provide."

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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