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6 Sep, 2012

Higher Fees Spell Changes For U.K. Students Planning Gap Year Break


Brighton, UK (PRWEB UK) 4 September 2012 — A-level results day – and, for many, the days that follow – is a particularly stressful time for A-level students. This year, faced with higher university fees and changes to the admissions system, an increased number of young people found themselves chasing fewer places through Clearing and thinking about reapplying next year.

The gap ‘year’ may have changed, argued David Flaschner, of UK-based volunteering organisation Projects Abroad (http://www.projects-abroad.co.uk) but it is still very much in demand, and the industry has responded proactively to increased pressure facing students.

“Students going to university this year will be the first to pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. Those who deferred the start of their course from 2011 to 2012 were denied an amnesty on increased fees, despite pressure from students, parents and organisations such as ours. The obvious result was that those taking a gap year fell by more than 50%, from 6.9% to 3.3% of university applicants – but now increased fees are in force, we expect the numbers to bounce back.”

A recent study supports this theory, showing that 81% of students said that travelling and seeing the world was a ‘top 5’ priority for them during the next five years. “Gap year activities have changed and developed over the years,” said David. “As the employment market becomes ever-more competitive, the opportunities Projects Abroad offers have become more flexible, structured and tailored to provide the things students tell us are important to them – whether that’s doing something generally worthwhile, learning practical or management skills, or specific experience related to the course they will go on to study.”

David expects flexibility to be key in shaping the gap ‘year’ in future. “Of those students travelling abroad, over half will keep their travels to less than six months,” he said. “So, in the past, teenagers might have spent literally a year abroad, probably combining a bit of work or word-of-mouth volunteering activities with plenty of plain travelling and partying, now we see them seeking focus, direction and measurable benefits. Personally, I think it’s a positive development.”

Projects Abroad’s programmes for gap year students span the globe but include some closer-to-home opportunities – such as Eastern Europe and Morocco – for young people who might not have the time or money to cross the Atlantic. Volunteers can choose from a range of worthwhile projects, from teaching to law to veterinary care, to complement their course or career aspirations. Programme Advisors and ex-volunteers are on hand to offer further advice.

“The economy is tougher for everyone, but students and potential students are facing particularly grim financial and employment statistics,” said David. “We owe it to them – as we owe it to the communities we work with around the world – to make our volunteering opportunities meaningful and beneficial. Feedback shows that we definitely achieve that aim.”

Projects Abroad is a leading organiser of global volunteer projects.