The 9k Fresher

As we look with nostalgia at freshers now behind us, and see the start of the new academic year, Laura Piccirillo investigates what the ‘9k’ fresher is and whether they will have a different approach to study…

Now I’m not talking about a Guinness World Record breaking and disturbingly skinny 9 kilo fresher, or the fresher with 9000 Facebook friends, nor even the one with 9000 bottles of vodka scattered around their room. No, when I say ‘9k’ fresher I refer to all you first years, commencing this academic year, expected to cash out the new, pricey £9000 annual tuition fee.


So is it all death stares from begrudging freshers to our lower paying students? Hopefully not, but we can understand why. Even before the introduction of the new premium rates, the UK had the third highest tuition fees in the world. It comes as no surprise then that with the news of increased fees from £3000 to an even steeper £9000 annual fee, UCAS saw a slump of almost 9% in university applications across the UK (nine percent, coincidence much?). That equates to just over 50,000 fewer applicants for a university place in comparison to last year.


It is expected that higher fees will foster higher competition between students who feel they owe it to themselves to milk every last possible penny’s worth out of that mighty cow we call the education system. However, the question is how much does this competition really affect our mentality towards study? Is it reasonable to believe first years will party three times less and work three times harder, knowing that they are paying three times as much? I chatted to a number of our bright yet bleary-eyed freshers to find out…


‘I would say it’s definitely going to make a difference. I don’t want to pay 18 grand for 3 years and then waste the time on a party lifestyle. Although going out and socialising is a massive part of the uni experience, I feel the pressure to get good qualifications because of the money I’m paying in!’


‘I think if anything the fees will hopefully motivate me more, because now my education is a choice and it’s all about my future- there’s quite a lot riding on this!’


‘It will make me more cautious…this will make sure that I’m not too reckless…’


‘Sometimes I worry about the loan, but I try to remember the numerous people in the same position and the benefits I’ll hopefully receive from getting a good degree. Even if I paid last year’s £3000 fees rather than our £9000, I’d still be in loads of debt after uni! I guess it’s all the same.’


The general consensus is that yes, the new fees will have an influence on the way freshers approach their degrees. Perhaps the higher fees will be a pitiful, economic reminder to our first years to make more informed, considered decisions. Whether it’s the difference between Sainsbury’s Table Wine in halls rather than buying that extra Jaegerbomb at Proud, or trusting your instinct to work that little bit harder come exam time, the £9000 fees will assuredly be an ominous factor in decision making for our freshers.


Fortunate as my peers and I are to have evaded the £9000 fees by enrolling last September, little makes me believe there will be a great difference between our attitudes to study. It is potentially too early to say but time, or rather results time next summer, will tell whether these fees will separate us academically. As is the typical pattern, the start to any year brings out the keen, motivated students within us with highlighters in hand and notepads at the ready, but it does not necessarily mean it is an attitude we maintain. Let’s not forget, it’s just first year after all.


‘3k’ fresher ‘9k’ fresher
Their slogan: We’re going to be in debt forever. We’re actually going to be in debt forever.
More likely to shop at: Waitrose Essentials, Planet Organic, Majestic’s Wine Tesco Value, Sainsbury’s Basics, any value based brand with a vodka that can be used as petrol.
Expected age students will be when they have paid off their student loan: 43 52 

(According to Institute for Fiscal Studies 56% of all graduates will be paying back their loans into their 50’s)

In the unlikely event students stay unemployed after graduating, number of years before government wipes student loan: 25 30


Anyway, maybe a few more experiences in Moonies might make us all a bit more willing to stay in and knuckle down. Although, the carpet is lovely.