No sex, but I get my ironing done

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The Independent Online
"Living at home hampers your sex life, but it does have advantages too - your mum does your washing and ironing.''

Undergraduate Steven Berry, 24, lives with his parents in Liverpool and commutes to an engineering course at Liverpool John Moores University.

In the kitchen of his family's comfortable semi-detached house, he is weighing up the pros and cons of his decision to study locally.

"There is none of this eyes meeting across a crowded room and asking a girl back to my place. It is more a case of 'sorry we can't - my mum and dad are in','' he says.

Steven had been accepted for an engineering course at Sheffield Hallam University, but turned it down after learning he was eligible for a grant of only £300 a year. His parents were expected to contribute the rest.

"The grant authority thought my mum and dad could afford £2,000 a year for my living costs, which they can't. My dad is a chemical operator, a shift worker, and my mum is a book-keeper. We live in a nice house - but they have both got ordinary jobs,'' he says.

"My parents said they were willing to do anything, including taking out a second mortgage or selling the house and moving to a smaller one.

"But I felt that would put a lot of pressure on me. What if I failed my course or did not like it? How would I have been able to tell my parents? If I went away I would have got thousands of pounds into debt. Staying at home seemed more sensible.

"In some ways I feel I have missed out academically. The Sheffield course had strong links with industry and a work placement in Germany, whereas I ended up doing my year's work placement with a local firm. I would have preferred to go abroad.

"But the biggest disadvantage is missing out on that whole experience of living away from home.

"Not knowing what it's like to be on your own trying to budget for bills, or doing the cleaning or going to the laundrette. I will be going into the world rather late in life.''

Steven gets around £20 a week from his parents to cover travel and other expenses. He has taken part-time jobs, and during his year-long work placement managed to save £1,000 from his earnings. But he has still needed to take out loans from the student loans company totalling £1,800.

"I would like to say I have paid my way; its a matter of pride. But it has been cheaper all round to live at home. Mum and Dad put up with me. I suppose I invade their space as much as they do mine. The good thing is when you come back after a long day of lectures and you have hours of study ahead, and Mum's got tea on the table and she's done your ironing.''