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Student Debt: The Causes and Consequences of Undergraduate Borrowing in the UK

Adrian J. Scott (Editor), Alan Lewis (Editor), Stephen E.G. Lea (Editor)

Policy Press (2001)

ISBN: 1861342799

"Student debt is having a negative effect on the well-being of students". This is the overriding theme which has been brought out in this publication.

The researchers believe that the replacement of maintenance grants with the student loan is breeding a debt culture which is having a 'serious impact on student well-being'. Using qualitative and quantitative research, including focus groups, face-to-face interviews and questionnaire surveys, the authors were able to examine how changes in the financing of higher education are impacting on the mental well-being of students within UK HE institutions today.

Student Debt is of interest to anyone concerned about the impact of debt on student well-being. The publication looks at the causes and consequences of student debt, investigates how changes in policy have impacted on undergraduate borrowing, and compares issues surrounding student debt in the UK, Italy and France.


The National Union of Students estimates that, on average, students graduate owing nearly £12,000. The publication highlights that increasingly, students are being forced to accept debt as an integral part of university life and indeed, the student survey found that 81% of the prospective students had concerns about the financing of their university education.

The researchers found that debt did negatively impact on student well-being, with depression occurring in nearly one third of graduates who anticipated owing substantial amounts of money. This compared to 8% of other students who didn't foresee such debts. Similarly, 74% of those students who did worry about getting into debt were found to suffer from anxiety compared to 45% of those students who were not concerned about potential financial difficulties.

Money troubles were found to arise from a few sources, namely poor money management skills such as careless budgeting and lack of self discipline; and unforeseen circumstances beyond the students' apparent control e.g. the high cost of living or illness. However, in spite of this, few students attempted to limit expenditure during such periods of financial hardship, especially when it came to socialising and alcohol consumption.

The effect on studies was made apparent with half of the students questioned believing that their financial problems damaged their academic results.

The researchers are suggesting an overhaul of the student funding system and recommend that money management lessons be introduced in schools with the aim of better preparing students for handling their finances at university.

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Last edited: 27 02 2009