For most students, uni is the perfect opportunity to move somewhere new and start afresh. You buy some wavey garms, pretend that you and ket are lifelong friends, and invent an entirely new cool ‘i’m so unaayy’ persona because, hell, no one knows you so why not?
Unfortunately, this is not the case for an increasingly large section of the student population. At present, more than 50% of students are living at home. Since tuition fees were trebled in 2012 and maintenance grants (giving vital financial aid to students from low income backgrounds) were scrapped, poorer students are being faced with a serious dilemma. Do they take the risk, move somewhere new, and emerge from university with over £50,000 of debt? Or do they stay at home and sacrifice the opportunity to enjoy the ‘real’ uni experience?
Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University, Liz Thomas, published a study that looked into the experiences of commuter students and how their experiences at university differ from that of their uni-accommodation peers. She told The Guardian, “Commuter students are an overlooked and often misunderstood group.”
“If you look at prospectuses there will be pages devoted to accommodation and little if anything for commuters, best routes to get there, where they can park or where they can store their books and equipment. I find it shocking that students told us about being locked out of lectures or shouted at if they were held up. I have never been locked out of my office when the train was late.”
Due to this obstacle, many commuter students are less likely to mix with their peers and could go through university living under the impression that their degree alone will be enough to get them a job. However, volunteering and internships are increasingly what make candidates stand out to employers. As many of these activities and society events are held in the evening, it is near impossible for commuter students to fully immerse themselves in all the clubs their university has to offer.
We spoke to some live-at-home students to see what they had to say about their time at uni.
Calum, studying History at The University of Strathclyde, told Student Life Guide, “It’s a mixed bag. You obviously don’t have rent to worry about but I often felt like I was missing out on, or felt less part of, a community. I did live with other students during a year abroad and got a taste for a different lifestyle- I thought it was much better. For my first two years of uni I didn’t feel very involved. It felt like a fairly remote place I didn’t have much to do with. I had to make an effort to properly feel a part of it. Plus, on a practical level taxis home from a night out are bloody expensive.”
Mikaela, studying Civil Engineering at Glasgow University, had similar experiences. Although, she did speak about the financial advantages of staying at home, “You do miss out on the experience of uni accommodation, and as a result tend to stick to the friendship groups you made at school. I was lucky though, because I had enough friends from home to go to uni parties together, but I reckon if I hadn’t have had them it would have felt pretty isolating .Money was a lot less stressful. I was able to save for travelling and not have to worry about bills, so that was a bonus. Also, if I needed to take time off work for exams I didn’t have to worry about rent. However, living at home gives you so many more family responsibilities. When I studied abroad I actually had more time to do uni work and go out.”
Is moving away from home for uni worth it? Is it becoming less accessible for poorer students? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!