by Amy Jones

It’s 2023, and now more than ever, students are struggling to find the motivation to stick to their courses and get their university degrees. Of course, university is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that many people do not even get the opportunity to pursue. For the top percentage of high-achieving students who have been shaped to complete university and gain some of the best degrees in the country, there has been a lack of ambition to complete the degrees due to the unexpected environmental and economic changes that have shocked the world. Instead, travelling and exploring each corner of the world has become a favoured alternative to many students who would have otherwise spent years obtaining their degrees to go straight into their chosen professions.

The question of why so many people are dropping out of university can be partly explained due to events such as the cost of living crisis, and also the diminishing views that are being placed on the fewer available academic degrees. It was reported by the Guardian that one in five students at Russell Group universities have considered dropping out due to the cost of living crisis. Another disappointing statistic noted that seven out of ten students across the UK have considered dropping out, an overwhelming number of students who are not happy with their degree or with their living standards.

With such drastic numbers, it is no surprise that so many students take the plunge and travel the world instead. Many more gap years are being taken out by students between their study years just to cope with the gloom and stress that the university lifestyle has turned into. Take a look at the most prominent factors that are causing students to drop out and follow their dreams of travelling instead:

The cost of education 

To determine the cost of getting a university degree you have to take into consideration the cost of tuition, student loans, and also student accommodation costs which are usually necessary when studying at a university away from home. From September 2023, student loan costs will likely double, with multiple changes such as the earrings repayment threshold reducing to earrings of 25k a year, and also the years in which it must be paid off has been extended to 40 years instead of 30. This essentially will increase the cost of education for a lot of students who are unable to pay for their student debt within the time frame and will extend the repayments an extra 10 years. This accumulates to a lot of money, and many students who are following a career for passion instead of a large wage will suffer as a result. Even students who secure a high-paying job when they leave university will instantly have to start their loan repayments and have little disposable income left once all of their bills and expenses are paid on top.

The cost of living 

The cost of living crisis has been a recurring topic that has rained havoc on people across the UK and Ireland. For the students who attend university in hopes of having a balance of studying and a fun student lifestyle, reality has quickly set in upon realising the maintenance loan is just a small portion of pocket money in supporting the cost of buying food and other essentials. The sad reality for students who do not have access to family support is that much of their life is spent working full-time hours at part-time jobs, just to afford their accommodation and food. The cost of rent for students has been on a positive incline over the last 10 years, reaching an all-time high as of 2023. Not to mention the cost of food that has risen extortionately for everyone. Students are facing the expenses of a full-time working adult, whilst trying to balance their studies and obtaining their university degrees. 

Degrees are considered insignificant 

10 years ago, a degree in anything was considered an achievement and students were encouraged to follow their passions. Unfortunately today, many of the degrees that defer from anything other than medicine, science, maths, and accountancy, are being considered “low value” to the extent that there will be limits placed on how many students are accepted for such courses. For students who have a passion for one of the “low value” degrees, this will come as a shock and will dishearten students who were hoping to get into their industry of choice without facing a limitation. With all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that students would prefer the freeing feeling of travelling the world and creating their growth and independence. 

The effect of Covid

The universal Covid-19 experience led many people to be stuck in their homes and limited on the travel they were allowed to do. During covid, dropout rates soared with thousands of students leaving the confinements of their student accommodations. Many fled the country as soon as they were able to gain a sense of freedom within a world that felt so locked down during the times. This theme has continued even without the harsh restrictions of lockdown, and now Gen-Z students are flocking to parts of south-east Asia and even over to America to discover themselves and what their true interests are.

Travelling has its own enrichment 

Whether you are considering travelling between your studies or you are looking to drop everything to feel the freedom of travel, there are some things to consider. Weighting up your options should not be rushed, nor should you feel pressured by your peers and what the consensus is doing. The truth is both University and travelling have their life-changing benefits that will add value in the short and long term. 

If you are considering travelling, you might expect to find a new perspective on things, and even grow a new sense of appreciation for the life you have. Meeting new people and new cultures is also a great experience to find whilst exploring new countries, but also keep in mind you might expect this whilst attending university, just in a different way. Whether you travel solo and meet peers with a shared love for watch bands, or you travel with childhood friends and all take a gap year before attending university, there is so much to gain and learn over the experience.

Bottom line 

Overall, Gen-Z students are a generation of young adults who have faced an exceptional level of change during such a transformational time in their lives. With the cost of living crisis, changes in the university structure, and also the aftermath of covid, it is no surprise that so many students are packing their bags and going as far away as possible. As we ease out of the cost of living crisis, we would hope to see more positive change coming to students who hope to go to University, but if not, it would be no surprise to see a larger percentage of students travelling to alternate countries to create their own experiences instead.