Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Money, tuition fees, and student loans - how the new system works

Start saving your pennies. Photo: Wikipedia
As pretty much everyone now knows, higher education is getting much, more expensive. For good or ill, the present Government is gradually retreating from direct funding of university education, and the UK is moving towards a more market-based system. Maybe things will change in a few years under the next government, maybe they won't. In the meantime, government funding for courses at Bucks and other universities does still exist, albeit in the form of loans rather than direct grants. Here is how the new system works:

Gateway Building at Bucks: Our brand new media hub
First, the bad news. Tuition fees across the UK have risen dramatically in recent years, from around £3,000 to as much as £9,000. The first intake at Bucks who paid the new fees joined us in September 2012. Our next intake, September 2013, faced the same financial challenges. In addition, students require money to pay their annual living expenses, so the total cost of a university education is now roughly £50,000 over 3 years. That is a lot of money.
Bucks offers bursaries to students in need
The good news is that loans do exist, to cover all or most of student expenses. The great benefit of the loan system is this:
  • interest rates are low
  • students are not expected to repay any part of the loan until they leave the university and are earning at least £21,000 per year. If you can't afford to pay, you don't have to. 
  • you only pay on what you make over £21,000. Once you earn more than this sum, you start repaying the loan, but only up to 9% of your earnings over £21,000. 
  • best of all, after around 25 to 35 years, if you still have student loan debt, you can write the whole thing off. 
So, the key point is this: these loans are soft money.  Next to borrowing for a mortgage, it's probably the best kind of debt you can have. Much, much better than, say, credit card debt, or a regular bank loan, or - heaven forbid - short-term cash loans from outfits like Wonga or their ilk.

All our first year students get free laptops

Plus, there are scholarships (also known as bursaries) available at Bucks, offering up to £6,000 per year. And there are other ways that Bucks helps our students out. On the Animation and Visual Effects course, all our students get a free laptop. The reason for this simple - we want our students to be capable of doing work from home, taking on small freelance jobs before they leave University. We recognise that most students can't afford a laptop - so we give them one for free.
The Bucks Big Deal - free stuff for our students
In addition, the Bucks Big Deal offers a wide range of benefits to our students. The idea behind the Big Deal is to make sure that there are no unexpected expenses facing students on our courses. No hidden fees, and no nasty surprises.


We offer other stuff too, like a free subscription to the digital learning site www.lynda.com. Again, this makes sense for us because we want all our students to have access to the very latest software. Need a tutorial in After Effects? Look no further. You can study not just on campus, but at home, or on the weekends.


We also have hundreds of videos on animation and visual effects specially recorded for our own students, hosted at Vimeo. Missed something in class? No problem, just watch the videos in your own time. And to get a flavour of what it's like to study at Bucks, check out our (very silly) video below.



If you would like to know more about how to finance your time at University, the student finance page at Bucks gives more information.

---Alex

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Lynda.com. Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

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