The life of Riley? Hardly

October 15, 2009

I was astonished to read Kevin Sharpe's article suggesting that students are leaving university with debts in excess of £20,000 because of a "luxurious lifestyle" ("A champagne generation", 8 October). Our latest student-experience survey found that only 13.8 per cent of students' annual expenditure went on socialising. The overwhelming majority was spent on rent, groceries, bills, books and travel. About three in four students take on paid employment to make ends meet.

Perhaps Sharpe is unaware that there is a recession on, where student jobs are drying up and the "bank of mum and dad" is suffering just as much as its high-street counterparts. Perhaps he is also unaware that many of the "luxuries" he cites, such as mobile phones and MP3 players, are part and parcel of 21st-century life. Laptops and internet access are required to meet the demands of many courses.

While there have been and always will be pockets of wealth and extravagance in the student body, I suggest that Sharpe either spends more time pontificating on Renaissance studies or bothers to offer evidence for his wild assertions about today's students.

Wes Streeting, President, National Union of Students.

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