Sir—In August 1588 Britain defeated the Spanish Armada. In July 1928, women fought for the right to vote and in August 1945 World War Two ended with a British Victory.
And now, in August 2010, 60,000 British students are fighting to get a place in a university.
Now, why start off with battle figures? Because that’s exactly what it is. People all over the country are getting stressed, upset and frightened, while the media only publishes figures.
There are no first-hand accounts, no descriptions of the war horrors, or even any decent advice on how to sort it out.
Now, before we go any further, I want to explain something about myself. I am 18 years old, just finished my A-levels and looking at going to university. I’m one of that 60,000 who are going through clearing.
Don’t be under the impression that I failed, I am far from a failure. I received an ‘A’ in English as well as a Distinction Merit in a BTEC.
I didn’t get into to university as I missed the deadline as I was stranded abroad due to the ash cloud crisis and there was no leeway on this, at all, but in fairness I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to university.
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As far as I was concerned, I had two options. I could go to university and accumulate debt. This meant I’d have few holidays, little cash and I’d be living at home until I’m around 24.
I could get a job, work somewhere I hate, still have money, go on holidays, move out, but forfeit my education.
It’s not an easy decision and I’ve thought long and hard about all of my options. It’s resulted in tears and tantrums, screaming and yelling as well as rushing into decisions I have no intention of honouring.
I’ve applied and got into into universities on the other side of the country that I won’t go to. After researching everything I can, I’ve found that apparently only one in ten graduates will find a job with their degrees, so I wondered, is it worth getting into debt?
One of the worst things is that I know of people who got grades such as A*, A, A, B and still failed to secure a place. Why? The sheer number of applicants.
But that isn’t all. There is talk of the fees rising as well as a new student tax. Now, that’s all very well for the chaps down in Cambridge and London who can afford this kind of money, but for us disadvantaged students in the north it just seems so far out of reach.
The average student who starts university this year will accumulate £24,700 in debts. At 18 that’s a scary figure! The word debt is also enough to send shivers down my spine.
Now, with that figure in mind, as well as the employment levels in South Yorkshire, it’s a real eye-opener.
Even with a degree there’s no promise of a job. Everyone wants a degree, but once you have one they want experience. It’s a massive catch 22.
I planned on getting a degree in English but, realistically, how many other people are doing that? As well as that, how many of them are more likely to get jobs that me?
When trying to get on an English course I was upset to find it was the first subject to fill up and close. It didn’t even matter that I had double the point tariff needed. It was full. End of story.
Now, what did amuse me is that I was offered a course on Japanese and Business Studies. After failing French I was told by my college that I would never make it onto a language course.
I’ve also never studied business, so it seemed like an odd combination. Scared that I wouldn’t measure up to it, I declined.
I’m from South Yorkshire and there have been plenty of debates about our education system. The fact is we only received three per cent of A*s, and that’s when we’re bundled in with Humber and Lincolnshire. The South East, in comparison, received 19 per cent of the A* grades.
Now, it’s easy to see why we’re at a sudden disadvantage when trying to go through clearing. We don’t receive that level of education and we never have. If you look at SAT scores, or GCSEs, you’ll see a similar pattern.
The best thing about these scores is that the media seems to think we’re stupid. I got 17 GCSEs and I was heartbroken to see tabloids tearing my hard work apart, saying that exams are easier.
It happened again with A-levels. I don’t see why everyone needs to get an A or A* if they still won’t be as good as the last generation.
Can’t they just make the exams as hard as they can and get it over with? It’s the most soul destroying feeling having something you spent two years working on pulled to shreds by someone who didn’t even take the exam.
Now, as I said before, Yorkshire is often penalised for the poor results that we get, but that doesn’t go to say we aren’t as smart as everyone else.
Let’s look at Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Brian Blessed. All of these men are incredibly successful and they are all from South Yorkshire. Sure, they are from a different generation, but it shows how successful we can be and that we have the potential to be the best.
I still want to be one the best. I want to live up to the bar set by those great men.
After analysing all of my options for university, I discovered something that might solve all of my problems. The Open University.
I don’t need an interview or any special grades. I can work full time and move out, go on holiday, etc, but I’ll still have my education. It seemed perfect.
I was a little worried that an OU degree would be looked down on, especially when it came into comparison with a Russell Group (or red brick) university.
Through research I’ve found that pretty much every employer would prefer an OU degree, as it shows determination, as well as the ability to work alone and without help.
So that’s what I’ll be doing. I might miss out on some of the university experiences but the Open University is a cheaper option and it saves me from all of the UCAS hassle and media speculation.
I’ve won my battle against UCAS; I just hope that the other 60,000 can win theirs.
Anna Rydelewski, Dearne Valley
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