Can you get a degree for free?

News out this month revealed that graduates left their universities owing an average £41,000 and new research suggesting students’ financial worries are causing depression and drink problems is leaving some to ask, is a degree now too costly to contemplate?

Well these days the average cost of three years’ tuition fees alone is £18,000.

It seems a huge sum to pay for a higher education but English undergraduates paid an average £6,000 in yearly tuition fees in the 2013-14 academic year according to the OECD, (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

And now some universities in England are telling potential students their tuition fees will rise in 2017 – the first increase since 2012.

Depressing enough but worse still new graduates in England face average debt levels of more than a third of the average mortgage, according to research from The Money Charity. It says this year’s graduates will owe at least £41,000 when they start repaying their maintenance and tuition loans.

Worryingly but perhaps not surprisingly, being in debt is affecting students’ health. Research out this week from the University of Southampton and the NHS reveals student debt worries are causing depression and alcohol dependency.

So is there another way to get a degree – for free? Here are five ways of doing just that.

1. Find a company who will pay for your degree
Not as far-fetched as it might seem – such degrees are sometimes called sponsored degrees.

A new degree developed by The University of Chichester and Peter Symonds College in Winchester has produced a BA (Hons) in Insurance. The academics worked with Be Wiser Insurance to create the UK’s first degree in Insurance.

Schemes vary, but this particular programme offers undergraduates a salary of £18,000 a year and covers tuition fees. Students are offered a management level job on graduation.

2. Study abroad
Brexit might mean this option is not available for the full three years, but currently there are opportunities to study free (or very low cost) in; Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Greece and more – visit for more information.

3. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships
These are quite new and similar to sponsored degrees. Many universities are working in collaboration with businesses to offer such apprenticeships – covering all sorts of roles and industries. Early adopters include Airbus, Morrisons and Barclays.

Sheffield Hallam University has been working with Nestlé to create the ‘Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship’, which will give young people the chance to become the next generation of business leaders.

To find out more about Degree Apprenticeships visit The Student Room’s Apprenticeship Zone.

4. A full fee scholarship
Such scholarships do exist, but they’re a bit like an albino tiger…rare. A couple of examples include those offered by Newcastle University and London’s Goldsmiths university.

This year Goldsmiths had 10 full tuition fee waivers – worth £27,000 each for Lewisham’s brightest talent, covering fees for three years. Use to search for more of these.

5. Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding means you are relying on the generosity of others, be they family, friends or absolute strangers to pay your fees. This radical route seems to be most successful if you have a fabulous back-story, ask for smaller sums of money and offer something tangible in return. One successful crowdfunding student, Sarah Atayero from Luton, managed to raise over £6000 from 210 ‘backers’ to help with her MSc at King’s College London – she starts this September.

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