UK Culture – What's a university education worth? Introduction This support pack accompanies the audio file 'What's a university education worth?'. To listen to the audio file, go to: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/uk-culture/whats-university-education-worth This support pack contains the following materials: • • • • a pre-listening vocabulary activity the transcript of the audio file a comprehension activity a vocabulary activity Before you listen Activity 01 Use the words and phrases in the table to complete the sentences below. a. challenging b. having a career c. interest d. repayment e. salary f. g. student loan h. summer job i. j. tuition fees struggle wage 1. difficult but rewarding 2. extra money paid on a loan or bank savings 3. fight 4. getting a better job or salary within a company over time 5. money a student pays to a university 6. money borrowed from a bank or finance company 7. money paid back on a loan 8. money paid for a week’s work 9. regular monthly or annual pay packet 10. work between academic years Transcript Every year, it costs British students more and more to attend university. Students are graduating with larger and larger debts. So is a university degree really worth it? In 2006, the UK government started to allow universities in England and Wales to charge British students tuition fees. As a result, more than 80% of students in England and Wales now take out a student loan in order to go to university. They use the loan to pay for tuition fees, books and living expenses. Although the interest on student loans is quite low, it begins as soon as the student receives the loan. The average student in England and Wales now graduates from university with debts of around £12,000. Students of medicine, who study for longer, usually have debts of more than £20,000. That is a lot of money. It means graduates cannot afford to buy a house for many years. They even struggle to pay rent on a flat, because they have to start paying back the student loan when they reach the April after graduating (or after leaving a course). If you start to earn over £15,000 a year, the government takes repayments directly from your monthly salary. Is it any surprise, therefore, that the average British person does not leave their parents’ home until they are 30 years old? Page 1 of 3 The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity. UK Culture – What's a university education worth? You might think that a British person with a degree will find it easy to get a well paid job. However, most people in “white-collar jobs” seem to have a degree these days, so there is a lot of competition. Also, British companies tend to value work experience over a piece of paper. Like everyone else, graduates usually have to start at the bottom and work their way up. That can be very frustrating for them, since they are often over-qualified for the work they are doing. While at university, they had dreams of getting an exciting, challenging job. Therefore, life after university ends up being quite disappointing for a lot of graduates. All of the above is beginning to make British people question whether a university degree is really worth the money. Even before the credit crunch started, the BBC stated, 'The number of British students at UK universities has fallen for the first time in recent history... from 1.97 million in 2007 to 1.96 million last year ’. It looks like the figures will continue to decline, since loan companies are now telling some student that there are no loans available for them. Forecasts are that between 2009-19 there will be fall of 6% in the number of 18-25 year-old university applicants across the UK. Students have always been seen as not having a lot of money, but “student poverty” is now considered a real problem in the UK. Most British students expect to get a loan, part-time job or summer job. Worse than that, however, is the fact student leaders report there are increasing numbers of students turning to crime to support themselves financially. By contrast, things are now easier for students from other countries coming to study in the UK, since the value of the British pound has fallen. More international students come to Britain each year. The British universities offer more and more of the available places to richer international students rather than poorer British students. Some British people fear that, one day, there won’t be any university places left for British students at all. After listening Activity 02 Decide if each of the statements about the text are true or false. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. More than three quarters of all university students in England and Wales borrow money to study Students tend to buy a house soon after graduating Paying back a student loan is always voluntary A degree gives people an advantage when applying for white collar jobs Graduates often feel their first job doesn’t live up to their expectations Numbers of British university students began to decline after the credit crunch Students sometimes break the law to finance their studies More international students are coming to Britain because the UK currency is weaker Activity 03 Complete the sentences using vocabulary from the preparation activity. 1. We will lend you £3,000, which you will need to repay with .................... of 3% after three years. 2. Paying my fees every year has been a constant ..................... 3. With such a small loan, I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay the ..................... 4. I’ve got a good job, but I just wish the work was more ..................... 5. When term ends, I’ll have to get .................... just to make ends meet. 6. The .................... is £140 a week, but it’s cash-in-hand, so you don’t pay tax. Page 2 of 3 The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity. UK Culture – What's a university education worth? Answers Activity 01 1. a; 2. c; 3. f; 4. b; 5. i; 6. g; 7. d; 8. j; 9. e; 10. h Activity 02 1. True – 80% 2. False – graduates cannot afford to buy a house for many years 3. False – If …the government takes repayments directly from your salary 4. False – …there is a lot of competition…British companies tend to value work experience over a piece of paper 5. True – life after university ends up being quite disappointing 6. False – Even before the credit crunch…the number of British students… has fallen 7. True – …there are increasing numbers of students turning to crime 8. True - …since the value of the British pound has fallen Activity 03 1. interest; 2. struggle; 3. tuition fees; 4. challenging; 5. summer job; 6. wage Page 3 of 3 The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.