Maryrose Fison: Don't protest – just find out how to get a degree without paying a fortune

They came in their droves. Armed with placards and chants, tens of thousands of university students descended on the capital last week protesting against plans to hike tuition fees from 2012.

Yet for all the furore and calls for free university education, the demonstrations were largely futile. The Government has reiterated its plans to lift the cap on tuition fees, which will enable universities to charge up to £9,000 per year on some courses, and the perception that a tertiary education is some kind of God-given right is beginning to crumble.

But the reality of impending fee rises is less worrying than the screech of angry students may suggest. It is true that the cost of studying on a degree course in Britain is likely to rise, but there are myriad ways to overcome this financial burden which few seem to have grasped.

As a member of the European Union, British students can apply for a place at thousands of universities across the Continent. While some countries charge tuition fees, many do not. Universities in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, for example, do not charge British students any tuition fees and offer many programmes in English.

Other countries, such as Spain and Germany, do charge, but the size of their tuition fees are small when compared with those expected in the UK. In Germany, for example, a British student could expect to pay approximately ¤500 (£425) per semester in tuition fees with an additional ¤50 registration fee per semester, but there are some länder (federal states) which still do not charge at all. Spain, too, has a record of charging low fees, with the average cost of a bachelor programme costing between ¤1,386 and ¤2,880, according to the website

As well as being less of a financial burden on young people's wallets, studying abroad can be invaluable when it comes to increasing a graduate's job prospects. Immersion in another country can boost language skills as well as develop life skills and enrich an individual's sense of cultural awareness.

But if moving abroad isn't an option, there are other ways to fund an education in the UK. Hundreds of grants, loans and bursaries are available for young people who are prepared to do their homework. Many blue-chip companies offer scholarships to young people showing signs of academic promise. And generating relationships with organisations which could become future employers ahead of graduation can only be a plus.

For those of a military persuasion, the Army offers a wide range of bursaries for young people prepared to undergo officer training after graduation. The Army's Undergraduate Bursary currently offers £6,000 for a three-year course and £7,000 or £8,000 for four- or five-year courses respectively.

For parents who want to plan ahead, saving a small proportion of earnings into an ISA or regular savings account is one of the best ways to build up a sizeable pot to be used for a child's tertiary education.

Putting away £150 per month for 18 years will generate a savings pot of £32,400 after 18 years, without adding interest and before taking inflation into account. If £150 is too steep, a £50 contribution over the same period will provide £10,800 after 18 years.

And for parents without the luxury of 18 years to build up a sizeable savings pot and for young people without a well-padded savings account, now may be time to think about the overall benefit of a university education.

The idea that a university education guarantees a job after graduation has been disproved many times in recent years, with record numbers of graduates unemployed or forced to work in temporary jobs which have few criteria other than knowing how to use a photocopier and type.

While vocational courses such as medicine and architecture are obviously a necessity for those seeking jobs as doctors or architects, the value of other degrees is far less clear-cut. Media studies may be fun for some, but when it comes to getting a job, graduates may find themselves in the doldrums.

Lacking relevant experience was no impediment to award-winning businesswoman Michelle Mone, who left school at the age of 15 due to a family illness, and went on to set up one of the most successful lingerie companies in the UK.

Bill Gates, the world's richest man for most of the past decade, famously dropped out of Harvard to go and set up Microsoft. Sir Richard Branson never went to university at all, but set up his Virgin empire, among the most successful privately owned businesses in the UK.

The world is filled with shining examples of people who went against the grain of conventional wisdom to chart their own paths in life and make a success of it. A degree may tick a box on a CV but self-motivation, imagination and focus are equally important when it comes to achieving life goals.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies