DAVID O'NEILL, 26, musician, graduated this year: Yes, it's worth it, but I had to have a job for the three years I was there. I still finished pounds 700 in debt. If you ask me the same question next year and I'm still on the dole, I might have changed my mind.

GANESH SITTAMPALAM, 13, maths graduate: University is important because you can do more stuff than at A-level stage.

CATE TREISE, 22, publishing assistant: Definitely, because my degree has got me the job I wanted. But financially it was a struggle.

JAMES STRONG, 22, graduated this year: I nearly had to drop out for financial reasons. My bank advised me to leave and get a job until I could afford to go back. Eventually they gave me a big overdraft, but I had to beg. I owe an awful lot of money.

CLIVE HOPKINS, Harpers & Queen Sloane of the Year: I went to agricultural college at Cirencester and couldn't have got where I am today without it.

FAY WELDON, novelist: University gives you a framework of ideas into which you put all consequent experiences. And the company of an educated person is far pleasanter than that of someone uneducated.

PETE ADJAY, 22, teacher: University gave me the time to develop as a person and make up my mind about life.

HARRY PITT, Emeritus Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford: Yes, of course. I don't think the loan system is too much of a burden for most students. If you're earning a lot, you should be willing to contribute to the society that enabled you to be educated.

TOM NASH, 58, Open University student: Being working class, I never considered going to university. It wasn't until I dabbled that I realised that I could join the ranks of the academics. It's wonderful]

JILL LAND, 32, teacher in a private school, went to Oxford: Of course] I made a lot of good friends there. I don't think the loan system has deterred my pupils. The great change is that they are really interested whether the courses are vocational or not. They want them to be a ticket to a lucrative job.

NATALIA GEORGIADOU, promotions consultant: So many people go only because they're from a sheltered middle class background. I went for a couple of years, then left when I got offered a good job. I found the atmosphere very unworldly.

CHRIS EUBANK, WBO super- middleweight champion: Education is the greatest gift man can have, and money can't buy it. I got slung out of eight schools because I stuck up for people who were having a bad time, so I ended up in fights. I'd like to go to Cambridge and read philosophy.

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