With the IFS finding student debt rise over £50K we ask: Can you get a degree for free?

New research out today (5 July 2017) suggests that student debts will rise to more than £50,000

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that students in England are going to graduate with average debts of £50,800, after interest rates are raised on student loans to 6.1%.

English undergraduates paid an average £6,000 in yearly tuition fees in the 2013-14 academic year according to the OECD, (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). And now some universities in England have increased their tuition fees for 2017 start - the first increase since 2012.

Worryingly but perhaps not surprisingly, being in debt is affecting students’ health.  Last year research from the University of Southampton and the NHS revealed student debt worries are causing depression and alcohol dependency.

So is there another way to get a degree - for free? Here are five ways of doing just that.

1. Find a company who will pay for your degree

Not as far-fetched as it might seem – such degrees are sometimes called sponsored degrees.

A new degree developed by The University of Chichester and Peter Symonds College in Winchester has produced a BA (Hons) in Insurance. The academics worked with Be Wiser Insurance to create the UK’s first degree in Insurance.

Schemes vary, but this particular programme offers undergraduates a salary of around £20,000 a year and covers tuition fees. Students are offered a management level job on graduation.


2. Study abroad

Brexit might mean this option is not available for the full three years, but currently there are opportunities to study free (or very low cost) in; Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Greece and more – visit topuniversities.com for more information.

3. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

These are quite new and similar to sponsored degrees. Many universities are working in collaboration with businesses to offer such apprenticeships – covering all sorts of roles and industries. Early adopters include Airbus, Morrisons and Barclays.

To find out more about Degree Apprenticeships visit The Student Room’s Apprenticeship Zone


4. A full fee scholarship

Such scholarships do exist, but they’re a bit like an albino tiger…rare. A couple of examples include those offered by Newcastle University and London’s Goldsmiths university.

Last year Goldsmiths had ten full tuition fee waivers - worth £27,000 each for Lewisham's brightest talent, covering fees for three years. Use http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk to search for more of these.

5. Crowdfunding

Crowdfundingmeans you are relying on the generosity of others, be they family, friends or absolute strangers to pay your fees. This radical route seems to be most successful if you have a fabulous back-story, ask for smaller sums of money and offer something tangible in return.  One successful crowdfunding student, Sarah Atayero from Luton managed to raise over £6000 from 210 ‘backers’ to help with her MSc at King’s College London.

6. Your local FE College

Investigate what your local further education college can offer. Very often you can start with a foundation degree (two years full-time) and then top-up to a full BA or BSc. These degrees are mostly validated by partner universities - so your degree will most likely say 'awarded by University of Sussex' or, 'Plymouth University' - whichever university your local college partners with. This won't be a free degree, but it will be cheaper than traditional university.