Student fees, living costs and a bleak future: society not safe for young people

22nd December 2016 / United Kingdom

By Kennedy Walker/GlobalJusticeNow – Recently it was reported that three students at Bristol University have all died within weeks of starting term. Relatives of two of the students have indicated that they killed themselves.

This heart-breaking story sparked a public discussion around young people’s mental health and it’s clear that this is not a moment too soon. A recent Guardian studyrevealed that the number of students seeking counselling at university has gone up by 50% in the last five years.

These stats are shocking. So why am I not surprised by these findings?

Having just finished university I can attest to the mental strain students face. And I’m sure many others can relate. Students on three year undergraduate courses can easily find themselves in £53,000 worth of debt plus interest after graduating. And this isn’t even taking into account the cost of living and rent.

Add to this, the dire prospect for the future young people face. In 2015, research found that the UK proportionally has more graduates than any other rich country apart from Iceland. But it also showed that an increasing number of graduates in the UK find themselves working in low-paid jobs they are overqualified for – jobs that would in previous generations have been filled by non-graduates.

With soaring rent prices and living costs, enormous debts and a bleak future, it is clear to me that the reason why more and more students are experiencing mental health issues is related to how our economy is run.

Another recent study by the mental health charity Mind found that 43,000 students at the Russell Group institutions accessed counselling services in the 2014-15 academic year, compared to 34,000 three years earlier. This 28% jump shows a clear correlation between the trebling of tuition fees and students need for accessible mental health services.

This trend is serious and deserves a serious response and robust analysis. Although universities have to ensure they respond to this increase we can’t afford to focus on a symptom that has a much broader causation; students being forgotten about, not supported and actively left behind by this governments policies. With tuition fees on the up and the cost of living and housing on the same trend we need to start questioning how safe the future of our society is.


Kennedy Walker is the Campaigns Coordinator at Goldsmith Student Union and previously worked at CLASS as their Communications Officer and Global Justice Now in the activism team. Holding a Masters in Human Rights and Social Justice Kennedy also has experience in grass roots organising and youth mobilisation having been involved in Take Back The City and Demand the Impossible.

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