There has never been a worse time to be a student in Britain. For a debt of £46,000 many 21-year-olds graduating this summer can recount a glittering three years of being locked down in their student rooms with video lectures during Covid, followed by academic strikes, which left some without a single in-person session for certain modules.
And now, to pour salt in the wounds already overspilling with it, they may not learn their degree classifications until “shortly after” September 30 – months past the proper due date – as a result of a marking boycott.
This is the fate of politics and sociology students at Cambridge University, whose results could come five months after their exams, unless the strike is called off. At other universities, some final year students have no idea where their grades stand, as modules and dissertations handed in have gone unmarked, leaving them to enter their exams “blind”. Some rightly fear that this will scupper their scholarship chances, graduate job prospects and conditional offers for further studies. Surely these opportunities are now the only point of going to university for the cohort for whom fun and in-person learning were all but stripped away.
The notion that students gain anything from the higher education experience has been moot for a long time. Instead, it has become a largely needless hoop to jump through for young people, who the Government has successfully convinced will amount to nothing without a 2 and a 1 somewhere on their CV. And now, in the absence of those digits they paid £9,250 a year for, the class of 2023 gets to spend their summer watching the interest cap on tuition fees expire in August, and a likely higher one come in to clobber them by the time they finally get their degree certificate.
This neverending debt and doom spiral may well be the only thing to have prepared them for the future in the past three years.
I feel so desperately sorry for students, who have been abandoned by a political class that all but mandated this path, stacked years’ worth of unnecessary debt along it, and meets every one of these mounting injustices by turning the other way. There is not a solitary voice in the students’ corner now.
Until higher education institutions are held up to more rigorous standards – or at least provably benefit the young people whose bank balances they empty – believing them to be fit for purpose is a fallacy.
It’s not just Britain that is beset by strikes but France too, where this week one major company saw employees stage a walkout. The optics of this mass action were perhaps a little skewed by the march’s focal point being Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – an inevitable byproduct, when the employers in question are Disneyland Paris. A twist on the usual parade, certainly, though slightly undermined by the fact that no one can be taken seriously in a sea of Mickey Mouse ears.
Death and pizza
Hell hath no fury like those wronged by buy now, pay later schemes. Hell Pizza in New Zealand, that is, which recently announced that customers can settle their dough-based debts in the next life. The chain is signing up 666 (real commitment to the theme here) customers to AfterLife Pay: a legally binding contract mandating their pizza bill be listed in their will, and handled by their estate on their passing.
It gives new meaning to “late fees”, but Hell’s won’t involve the extra charges or interest other payment schemes require – and it seems to be a hit, with successful applicants to be chosen later this month. One hopeful said that she had been motivated to sign up following the recent passing of her father, as “going through his will and estate has been tough. And I would just love to see my family have a laugh when eventually mine is read out, and the estate has to pay for a pizza from several decades prior.” Hysterical stuff.
Hell are certainly playing the long game, as gags go. As well as introducing a rather unique, if disturbing, profit model: that death can be good for business.