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.
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums
China stock market: My portfolio's in pain, but it was never for the financially faint-hearted
China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'
Questions of Cash: 'Our dividends seem to have disappeared when TSB was bought and then born again'
Mark Dampier: 'Masterly inactivity - the case for sticking with smaller firms'
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 5 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Day In a Page
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.