I need a degree in jargon!

STRESSFUL TIME: Katy Myers. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP120413 (8).

STRESSFUL TIME: Katy Myers. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP120413 (8).

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Katy Myers, 16, is a student at St Ninian’s High School, Douglas, who hopes to go to university. Here she tells us of her concerns as she faces the prospect of paying tuition fees, or even understanding what that might involve.

I can honestly say that trying to research the correct information regarding the application of university fee grants, has been one of the most confusing and rather stressful periods of my life.

It takes a lot before I become stressed about a situation.

Yet mix together the thought of moving to a different place, leaving behind lifelong friends and the pressure of achieving grades that will determine the course of the future, it becomes easy to see why I am surrounded by people in a similar state of mind. Add to that the government’s ever-changing student awards regulations, and a recipe for confusion becomes apparent.

The information regarding grants seems to be spread out over a multitude of contradicting sources, and for many people it has been difficult to find the truth amongst word-of-mouth from peers, facts from school and reports from government websites. It would seem common sense that the correct information on government grants would come from these websites. Yet the truth is the information is hiding behind an excess of jargon that may make perfect sense to the officials who wrote it, but not to the masses who need it.

Asking some of my peers for their thoughts regarding university fees, I found I was not the only one struggling. It seemed everyone had a different idea of the current regulations. Future information needs to be presented to students in a clearer, more concise way. At the moment, the Manx Government pays for the tuition fees at university for the first three years for a student who has been residing on-island for more than three years, with the student contributing towards the tuition fees of any additional years. It also contributes towards the student’s annual maintenance fees, leaving Manx students with a substantially smaller potential student debt than their UK counterparts.

However, I have too often come across students from the island who feel it is their ‘right’ to have the Manx government pay for all of their university fees. This is supported by the argument that it is the government’s fault most university courses are not offered on-island, and therefore it should have to pay the grants. To quote a comment on a news story about this, it seems ‘privilege has led to a sense of entitlement’.

Peter Karran MHK, Minister for Education and Children, said that ‘Asking students to contribute £5,000 a year for the fourth and subsequent years of a degree or for postgraduate study will encourage students to carefully consider which courses to take’. Yet students are well aware that the course they choose will determine their future career...after all this is constantly drilled into them from the moment they choose their GCSE options. Whether to choose a three or four-year course with a potential debt of £5,000, will only be considered as another item in an ever-growing list of concerns.

Mr Karran went on to say: ‘The decision to continue to meet tuition fees for the first three years of a degree course meant that university places could be accessed by all students who are academically able to attain them and not just those who can afford it’. Therefore the government seems keen to promote a system of meritocracy, as in the past often only the most privileged of students have gained the chance. However, just under a third of Manx students qualify for a maintenance grant, so it is still predominantly students from higher wage-earning families that are going to university.

Also, the UK Government’s wish for more people to have degrees has led to a compromise in the number of jobs available to university leavers. The job prospects after a degree have been in the forefront of my mind when looking at courses.

I personally believe that any kind of education should be free to all those who need it, regardless of where they live. However, whilst university education remains an asset UK students have to pay for, I’m sure past, present and future Manx students are thankful for the assistance our government gives us. The review of the student awards regulations has helped to bring into the public eye how fortunate we are.

For more information, contact the Student Awards Office on 685822, or e-mail studentgrants(at)doe.gov.im.

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