Frank Furedi

Professor of Sociology at University of Kent, and author of Politics of Fear, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, Therapy Culture, Paranoid Parenting and Culture of Fear.

More students staying at home to reduce debts
Liz Lightfoot

Fewer students are leaving home when they go to university, a survey shows. A quarter now continue to live with their parents. The desire to save money is a strong consideration for the stay-at-home students who leave with less than half the debts of those living in halls or rented accommodation.

But a liking for home comforts is also a factor says Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, because, allowing for inflation, accommodation costs have not risen significantly since the l970s.

"There are a lot of middle class students who pay rent during the Easter and summer vacations, but go home to their parents," he says. "Students in the l970s were very different, They would rather have lived in a hole with five other people, sharing a bathroom and an outside toilet, than stay at home with their parents because they valued their freedom and autonomy.

"Someone who in the past would have gone away would rather have mum washing their clothes and the use of dad's computer. It is a negative development because it means staying as an adolescent rather than becoming an independent adult."

The survey reported in today's Times Higher Education Supplement, found 45 per cent of students at the new universities said closeness to home was an important factor in their choice, compared with 33 per cent of those at traditional universities. It was the one deciding factor for 25 per cent overall.

Of those living at home, 40 per cent expected to complete their courses with debts of £7,500, or lower, compared with 15 per cent of students in halls of residence. They were more likely to rely on part-time jobs, however, and spent longer on travel. A third of the students living at home said they travelled for between two and three hours a day.

The increasing distance between university and the student's home was worrying, said Mark Phippen, the head of the counselling service at the University of Cambridge. "It is important for a student to feel they belong within a university or a social group. That's not a minor thing to have lost. If you have less connection to your institution it is easier to drop out."

Eight per cent of the students questioned in the survey for the supplement and Sodexho, the student accommodation and catering company, said they had £9.50 a week after housing costs, but 10 per cent had £150 or more.

First published in the Daily Telegraph, 22 April 2004