Julian Knight: An accidental gap year could be just what students need
Sunday 28 August 2011
Thousands of students are going to find themselves taking what I call an "accidental gap year"; namely they were set to go to university but there was no place for them this year.
Although this will mean that they will pay the ridiculous fees universities want to charge their students, it could be a blessing.
One of the big regrets of my life was not taking a gap year. I'd studied very hard for my A-levels, worked a job and looked after a relative; I didn't know it then but I was exhausted. A year working and doing some travelling would have done me the world of good, broadened my mind and allowed me to mature. It may also have led to a change of course and university – both of my choices were wrong in retrospect.
Although I've praised the gap year, it does seem terribly wrong that so many students will end up paying fees treble those levied this year. Just because universities ask for the money it shouldn't mean they get it. What is wrong, for instance, with doing two-year degrees – mine could have easily been condensed into that period of time – or more people studying remotely, reducing the need for lecturers and expensive facilities?
The university system seems to be run for the benefit of the staff and politicians – who invariably get cushy retirement sinecures – rather than the students. Perhaps many of those taking their accidental gap year will come to this conclusion too and do something else. Whatever happens, let's hope they value this 12-month hiatus. It could put them in better stead than those who pile into university on the conveyor belt from school.
After last week's comment on the policies of RBS and Lloyds to bar their basic bank account customers from using the ATMs of other banks because it cost them a little money, I have had quite a lot of responses.
First, from readers saying how disgraceful it is for part-nationalised banks to treat often vulnerable consumers so badly, but also from a friendly PR officer at Lloyds. The PR politely pointed out that its customers had the option of taking cashback in shops as well as using the ATMs in its extensive branch network.
I'm afraid the argument doesn't wash. The fact is that to get cashback you have to make a purchase and that could penalise the customer. And not everyone remembers to do it. I have often been at the till and had my card handed back and suddenly thought cashback would be useful. Cashback should be supplementary, not a replacement for ATM access.
On the issue of basic accounts, campaigners are missing a trick. Instead of whingeing at the banks for rolling up the services they offer poorer customers, why don't they argue for an expansion? The truth is that banks never wanted basic bank accounts; they'd rather not deal with the poor or vulnerable. They have put every barrier they could think of in the way of people opening accounts, and I would bet that the number of account holders who have been migrated to fully fledged accounts is minuscule.
Basic accounts could be used to solve some of the current financial woes of those on a low income. The banks at present resolutely refuse to attach an overdraft to a basic account. This means that account holders who suffer short-term cash flow problems often have to visit the pawnbroker, payday loan firm or a local loan shark.
Why not after six months of accounts being opened give all basic account holders an automatic £100 interest-free buffer zone? After, say, a year, people who have kept their accounts in good order should be automatically migrated to a standard current account unless they don't want to. A pipe dream?
Well, it can all be done through changes to the banking code and perhaps a little shaming by the Treasury Select Committee. Perhaps instead of attempting to protect the interests of IFAs who have been rolling in often ill-gotten commission for years, they ought to get on the side of the poor.
For too long the very wealthy in this country have been able to shelter their money in Switzerland free of paying their fair share. So, for me, last week's agreement between the UK and Switzerland that its banks will hand over 34 per cent of monies held by Britons in Swiss bank accounts was welcome, as was the £5bn it will bring.
There are some who suggest that this is a soft option, that somehow this is letting potentially dubious individuals get away with tax evasion. But think of the alternative. The UK tax authorities, already massively overstretched, have to plough through thousands of names of Swiss account holders, identifying those who are worth bring to book.
And it doesn't end there: how are they supposed to get a conviction knowing that the wealthy defendants will be lawyered up to the eyeballs and complex tax affairs have to be understood by a jury? Complex financial cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office have collapsed with expensive regularity. The agreement with the Swiss could save us all this and bring in much-needed revenue.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportUnder-10s football coach sacked for telling parents he was 'only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Banks are brought to account by switchers as growing number of people expect to be rewarded by their bank
Bargain Hunter: Playmobil plays to the gallery with discounts on its toy range
How to start your own internet business
Five ways to make money on the internet
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 4 Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida
- 5 ‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert
iJobs Money & Business
£Negotiable: Citifocus: The role will suit a fund product specialist, current...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits : Harrington Starr: An award wi...
£300 - £400 per day: Harrington Starr: My client is currently looking for an e...
£300 - £400 per day: Harrington Starr: My client is currently looking for an e...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.
A charming barn conversion in the picturesque Cotswold village of Ilmington with three bedrooms, a detached garage, workshop and beautifully manicured gardens £675,000.
A three-bedroom new build, ground-floor flat with two bathrooms, close to Bermondsey tube, £445,000.
A three-bedroom house in an enviable new development moments from Oxshott High Street, with secluded garden and decked area, £385,000
A two-bedroom split-level flat with stunning south-west facing roof terrace in the popular Brondesbury Conservation Area, £549,950.
A charming 16th century, three-bedroom detached house in Bidborough with picturesque garden
A top-floor one-bedroom flat in the heart of Pimlico with a terrace providing spectacular views over London, £495,000.
A six-bedroom house, with three reception rooms, 1.5 acres of land and stables, £450,000.