Pack a laptop and watch the bank balance

The Dearing report
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The Independent Online
It's goodbye to the devil-may care, beer-drinking student, turning out hand-written essays on obscure Anglo-Saxon poems and saving career plans for after graduation.

Undergraduates of the 21st century will be instantly recognisable by their laptop computers, sheaves of financial advice brochures, work experience checklists and - quite possibly - worried expressions.

An eye on the bank balance will be important: graduates would expect to leave university owing a minimum of pounds 8,000 - pounds 3,000 towards fees for their three years' study and pounds 5,000 in living-cost loans.

Parents, particularly those on higher incomes, are likely to start saving for their children's higher education as early as possible.

To keep costs down, more students may opt to live at home with their parents and attend nearby universities.

Increasing numbers of students will choose to study for a sub-degree qualification - a higher-level certificate or diploma in a job-related area such as business, computing, art and design, or leisure.

They may then continue in higher education, or opt to get a job for a few years to gain experience and to save towards studying again later.

High-flying graduates will seek out top firms prepared to pay off their loans as part of a recruitment package.

Students will demand far more information about the skills and knowledge their degree will give them. Universities will also have to pay more attention to preparing students for work, and more undergraduates will spend a sandwich year in industry.

By 2005, all students will be carrying laptops and making daily use of computers at their universities.