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Is it worth paying an average of £46,000 to go to university now?

Jasmine Birtles 17th Nov 2023 No Comments

i was on Times Radio at the weekend talking about the new student loans, how much they are and how (and whether) to pay them off.

We had a good conversation in which I mentioned that:

  • In England, the interest rate is set at the Retail Price index (RPI) but capped at 7.3%
  • In Wales it is 6%
  • In Scotland it’s 6%
  • In Northern Ireland its 6%

The rules have also changed when it comes to paying it back. It used to be that in England you had to earn at least £27,295 before you had to start paying it back. Now it’s £25,000. Given that many salaries have gone up with inflation that means that even more graduates will have to start paying the loan back earlier.

The rules are

  • The threshold for students starting university in England this year will be £25,000
  • In Wales it’s £27,295
  • In Scotland it’s £27,660
  • In northern Ireland it’s £22,015

You generally repay 9% of the amount you earn over the threshold.

It costs an average of £46,000 in loans

Students get a tuition loan which goes direct to their college/university to pay their fees. That’s up to £9,250 a year.

Then there’s the maintenance loan to help with food, accommodation, books and so on.

All together it’s estimated that today’s students have to borrow around £46,000 to get a degree.

Is it worth it?

No, according to my followers on social media.

I put the question to my followers on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram and, if the results I obtained from my followers are anything to go by, the future is not looking bright for universities!


I gave my Twitter followers a ‘yes/no’ option to the question: “is it still worth getting a degree given that it now costs an average of £46k?”

is it worth going to university

Some felt that it depended on where you were going and what degree you were getting of course.

Jay White (@jayjacobwhite) said he thought it was too big a decision for a 17-year-old to make. Others agreed. Simon Mitchel (@Mitchell47Simon) said that not all degrees are equal and return on investment really needs to be considered now.

Groucho (@888rw0) responded by posting a Telegraph article that showed that 42% of graduates are stuck in jobs that don’t even require a degree.


Instagram is is worth going to university

On Instagram, again I gave followers a binary, ‘yes/no’ response to the question of whether it’s worthwhile going to university now that it costs £46k.

The ‘yes’ people were slightly larger here at 23%

It was on Instagram Stories so there were no comments, but still the overwhelming view here seems to be that it’s not worth the outlay.



My Linkedin followers had a more nuanced poll (I did this one last). I gave them three options including ‘it depends what degree you do’.

Linkedin is it worth going to university

Here the unequivocal ‘yes’ was still very low at just 8% but at least the ‘it depends’ vote was 45% with an outright ‘no’ at just 47%.

The comments were interesting too, as you would expect from Linkedin followers!

Charles Abrahams said “It’s painful to think it costs that much but measured against a lifetime’s earnings, if you need a degree to get the right first job, the ROI is massive. I still don’t think it’s right that students be burdened in this way, but in pure mathematical terms it’s worth it.” 

James Walker suggested people might like to hop over a university degree and go straight to an MBA, However, that is even more expensive – though possibly more useful (possibly) – at around £100k in the UK and more like $200k in the USA.

What’s the future for universities?

It’s not a rosy one from where I’m standing.

Not only is the Gen Z generation and the one after (Alpha?) reducing in numbers as we are facing a birth crisis in this country as in other Western nations, but the cost of learning is so high that many would-be students are looking at alternatives already.

Also, the cost of running universities is said to be rising.

This report by ITV News shows that universities are closing as they can’t keep going financially. it says “One-quarter of universities are currently making a loss and total losses over the entire sector sits at a staggering £2 billion, a huge increase from the £200 million from the year before.”

Is it such a problem if people don’t go to university?

I went to university. I was the first one in my family to do so and we were all massively proud that I went.

Would I go today if I were offered a place?

Maybe – certainly if that place were one of the top universities in the country, which, I think, will always be acceptable to employers.

However, I wouldn’t do English as a subject, which is what I read as a student. i would try to do something useful that would help me get a good job.

Also, I would do my best to keep away from the woke ideology that seems to permeate academia across Western nations. It’s corrosive, unhelpful and actually damaging to mental health in my opinion. The sooner universities root it out and stop promoting it the better.

For today’s students, I recommend the same:

  • Be very careful about which university you apply to. Many universities are not respected by employers and could be a complete waste of your money
  • Also be careful what course you take. Doing something like Gender Studies, for example, can limit your chances of getting a decent job, unless you are just planning on staying in academia. Some courses will actually prevent you getting a job.
  • Look into potential grants for yourself based on where you live, your lifestyle and the subject you are going for. Tun2Us.org.uk has access to many grants and some are academic ones. Contact them.
  • Get into making money on the side while you’re at university so that you don’t have to borrow so much. We have hundreds of ways you can make money on the side in our Make Money section so look there for cash-producing ideas!
  • Consider apprenticeships. There are lots of them, including well-paid ones in the City. Check out the possibilities. You could end up with no debt at all.
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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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