Excluded from society: North East students have their say

North East teenagers have vented their frustration with Government policies that make them feel 'excluded' from society

Student Scott Huntley from Sunderland
Student Scott Huntley from Sunderland

Teenagers in the North East have vented their frustration with Government policies that make them feel “excluded” from society.

High youth employment and tuition fees, difficulties in getting a mortgage and cuts to benefits and services are weighing heavily on the minds of many young people in the region.

Today, members of the region’s student fraternity has spoken out against Government austerity cuts and other policies, which they believe will burn a hole in their pockets for years to come.

Scott Huntley, from Sunderland, is studying medicine at Newcastle University.

Although the 19-year-old believes finding a job will not be a problem at the end of his course, the five-year-long degree with increased tuition fees will likely leave him heavily in debt for a long time.

“The Government isn’t doing us any favours,” he said. “For that reason, I won’t be voting.

“With university tuition fees going up to £9,000 my degree will set me back £45,000 over the next five years. That’s a lot of money to recuperate, even with a well-paid job.

youthStudent Flora Gilbert, from Cheltenham
Student Flora Gilbert, from Cheltenham
 

“My older brother received a grant to pay him through university, so my current situation hardly seems fair. My parents couldn’t afford to pay me through university so I will have to foot the entire bill myself.

“They’re crying out for highly skilled workers in this country, but it costs a fortune to get there.”

Tom Harrison, who also hails from Sunderland but studies English Literature at Liverpool University, is worried about securing a job after he graduates with the worrying rate of high youth unemployment in the North East and other parts of country.

“I don’t trust the politicians at the moment,” he said. “They don’t seem to be doing anything for us so why would I support them in achieving their goals.

“My Mum and Dad are helping me pay my accomodation costs at university, but I work part-time in Iceland to help cover my tuition fees and other living costs.

“I’m trying not to worry about getting my foot on the housing ladder, because paying these enormous fees are my biggest concern right now. We’re getting hammered - I could understand if the Government had pushed fees up to £6,000 but £9,000 is ridiculous.”

Some forecasts predict that the number of university places needed in the UK will grow from 368,000 to 460,000 within the next 20 years. This means institutions will need extra money to invest in buildings and facilities if they are to compete with universities in other countries.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills maintains that the current £9,000 maximum fee allows universities to deliver high-quality teaching and to invest in improved teaching facilities, while ensuring that going to university remains affordable for students. Flora Gilbert, who is studying geography at Newcastle University, says the Government is failing to reach out to young people like her.

“I have no interest in politics,” said the 18-year-old. “The moment the politicians start taking our side, then I might change my view.

“Fortunately, my parents are helping with my tuition fees but I know plenty of my friends are taking a year or two out just to save up to go to university.”

:: All this week, The Journal is looking at the situation facing young people in the North East in our five-part series The Lost Generation. Tomorrow we will unveil the results of our exclusive opinion poll on the challenges facing the young in austerity Britain.

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