Students degree debt could double to £53,000 next year
Students starting degree courses this autumn can expect to graduate with debts of £26,000, and this will double for those beginning university next year, according to the Push university annual survey.
Push researchers questioned more than 2,800 students at 115 UK university campuses and looked at all the debts, apart from mortgages, accrued by students at different stages of study around the UK, including some on longer courses such as medicine, and some postgraduates.
They then used the rate at which debts have increased in the past to project future rises, as well as factoring in the almost tripling of tuition fees in England to a maximum of £9,000 from 2012.
The survey reveals that students joining university next month are likely to owe £26,100 by the time they finish their studies.
This is around £2,000 more than those who started courses last year are expected to leave with.
But youngsters who are planning to go to university in 2012 - the first year of the tuition fee increase - could find themselves saddled with a debt of £53,400.
For those in England alone, where fees are estimated to average £8,630 next year, graduates should expect to finish university with average debts approaching £59,100, the survey found.
A student currently at university, in any year of study, is racking up an average debt of £5,681 per year, the survey found.
In England, this average debt is £5,876, in Wales it is £6,231, in Scotland it is £2,025 and in Northern Ireland £4,319.
The survey also reveals differences between universities.
At eight institutions, the average projected debt on graduation for anyone studying now is more than £30,000, while at 18 universities it is under £10,000.
Johnny Rich, editor of Push.co.uk, said: "This is the first real glimpse we've had of what we should expect when the new fees hit students.
"The government has failed to explain how debts of over £50,000 will not cripple graduates financially, particularly given that students will need to find a quarter of that money from outside the support of the official loans system.
"For students this year and in the future, it's never been more important to understand the differences between universities.
"It's not just the debts that vary widely - the whole experience students have at different institutions and what they stand to gain from them vary too."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: "Average student debt is already staggeringly high and is now set to get much worse.
"The government's university funding plans are a recipe for disaster and will lead to people making important life choices on the basis of their ability to pay rather than their ability to learn."
The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was worrying that the survey shows that almost 25 per cent of the debt graduates are likely to have will be owed to sources other than the Student Loans Company.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said no-one should be put off going to university for financial reasons.
BIS says the majority of students will not pay £9,000 for their tuition, no first time undergraduate will have to pay up-front costs, and there is also a more generous package of financial support available, including higher living-cost grants, fee waivers and scholarships. Ministers also point out that graduates will make lower monthly repayments than they do under the current system.
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