Brtish students appear to be setting the most unlikely of trends. As thousands of school leavers prepare go to university in the hope of meeting new people and making new friends, a sizeable chunk of them will be keeping rather familiar company.
A report commissioned by Lloyds TSB has found that a significant number of undergraduates are planning for university life with mum and dad. Twenty seven per cent of the 1,000 students polled admitted that they were preparing to stay at home in order to save money. One third claimed that they could not go to university without family support.
Imran Khan is one of the growing number of students that have decided to stay at home. “It was much cheaper to stay here,” says Khan, 19, who studies media at Kingston University. “Staying on campus is expensive and I didn’t want to move out because I didn’t think I would study away from home. Half of the people I know have studied away have failed at uni because they partied too hard. Home life focuses you.”
As 26 per cent of those questioned by Lloyds TSB said that they were worried about managing their money during their studies and said that they would like further guidance, Imran’s decision appears to be a shrewd one. “Living away from home you think you can do whatever you want,” he says. “I had a friend lived on campus. Sometimes he wouldn’t go lectures and seminars or he would turn his work in at the last minute. Eventually he failed and now he is considering taking another course and starting from scratch.”
Khan’s decision to stay at home is less surprising when the cost of student halls in London is considered. An undergraduate can be expected to fork out between £90 and £175 a week to live in the capital. Bill Rammell, the Higher Education minister, says that the Government is trying to make student living more accessible and affordable. As of this autumn, two thirds of eligible new undergraduates will be entitled to a non-repayable maintenance grant of up to £2,835 a year.
“The changes we have made enable an extra 100,000 students, each year, to benefit from some level of grant support while they are at university,” he says. “Together with loans available for tuition fees and living costs and bursaries that universities offer, this improved package of support means nobody should be put off considering higher education for financial reasons.”
Unfortunately these changes have come too late for Stacey Shoucair, an interior design student at London Metropolitan University. Studying from her family home in east London, Shoucair, 22, feels that those living in rented student accommodation are not getting value for money. “I wanted to move out, but then I realised that there was no point,” she says. Like Khan, Shoucair says she would have considered it if it were more affordable. “I’ve seen the rooms, and I don’t understand how they can charge me so much for a little box. “When your rent is taken away you don’t have anything to live on. You find that student loan is going on rent rather than something more constructive.”
But statistics compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) contradict those outlined by Lloyds TSB. Despite the pressures of tuition fees, expensive rental costs and the credit crunch, HESA’s findings suggest that the number of students staying at home has held stable over the last five years.
Indeed, figures from Unite, the student accommodation provider, point to a 9 per cent rise in the number of students taking residence with them this year. This increase is supported by a report that Unite published last year, which found that 62 per cent of the thousand-plus respondents felt that stay at home students were not getting the full benefit of the student experience, particularly for those going into their first year.
Elizabeth Strasman moved into student digs last September. A fine art student at University of East London, Strasman, 22, hails from Cornwall and says that she feels “more comfortable” studying away from home, though it costs her £420 per month. “I can’t speak for anyone who has gone to university close to home but I imagine that they do it because they feel more comfortable at home, whereas I felt more comfortable moving away.
Strasman says that, though it is up to the individual, it is good to challenge yourself by fleeing the nest. “If you ask me it benefits you more if you move away because you are stepping out of the box,” she says. Officials from university admissions body Ucas were eager to stress that the most important thing is for school leavers to research their university choices thoroughly, whether that means staying at home or travelling the length of the country.
But Strasman is confident that she made the right choice. “Moving away has given me more confidence. Some people feel that they can’t leave home but I really appreciated having my own space.”
My story: living at home during uni
Jo Young, 19, studies fashion and textile buying at Huddersfield University. About to begin her second year, Young will live at home, choosing to commute into university.
“If there was any year that I would move out, it would have been my first year,” she says. “But I am not regretting my decision to stay at home at all.” Citing the cost of living as one of the key factors behind her decision, Young was also discouraged by tales of typical student woe. “I spoke to a lot of students and I saw how it can get towards the end of term and how they can’t afford to do an awful lot,” she says.
Young says she may have lost a little bit of independence in electing to remain at the family home, but she still manages to enjoy the student lifestyle. And having lived in Huddersfield her whole life, she says she looks at her hometown afresh. “You see Huddersfield in a whole different light as a student,” she smiles. “You meet so many new people, but you have the advantage that you can be the one showing them around.”