Ever increasing student debts are beginning to affect the entrepreneurial spirit of our next generation. Students leaving university with up to £38,000 of debt (tuition fees are set to rise to a maximum of £9,000) will not foster a spirit of entrepreneurialism. It’s a far cry from the £1,000 overdraft I left with in 1991.
The higher fees worry me for two reasons. The higher fees mean only the more affluent will attend Uni and many less
well off (but equally capable) students will be deterred by the increase in fees. A great swathe of future Bill Gates will be missed (and he has mentioned the importance of his university education). The genuinely talented may just miss the opportunity to develop their skills. We know two of the highest profile entrepreneurs – Lord Sugar and Sir Richard Branson – made it without a degree (but starting your career by selling car aerials out of a van is not for everyone).
Secondly, more sponsorship opportunities will become available to students, which itself may become a barrier to the spirit of entrepreneurialism. Graduates will increasingly be contracted to work for their sponsoring company for a set period of time (and rather like women tied into maternity pay, may not want to break the contract). Life for graduates will become a higher rental agreement. Some firms are even offering to pay for post A level training schemes as an alternative to Uni, which claims to train people to the same level as if they went to Uni (again tying them into a firm and preventing potential entrepreneurs going for it).
Students starting in 1998 didn’t have to pay tuition fees and means tested grants of up to £1,710 were available. Graduates left university without high student debts and were more able to take risks if they so desired and pursue endeavours for entrepreneurial success.
In contrast students applying in 2012 will graduate shouldering a large debt. It’s difficult to raise the funds and support to set up a business, which makes working for someone else a more appealing option.
Unis are not for everyone and it doesn’t guarantee a bright future. But everyone should have a chance. Lord Sugar hypothetically wouldn’t have benefited from being tied into a ten-year higher payment scheme for his first van.