Why students mind about the gap year

August 15, 1997

Two A-level veterans planning a year off tell Alison Utley of the ups and downs of the last week

AT THE beginning of the week Josie Allies's plan to work in a Maidstone solicitors' office for a year, saving about Pounds 4,000 before taking her place at Hull University, was in tatters. It was looking like a false economy to work for a year.

The conflicting reports surrounding the Government's plans which changed from day to day mystified and angered her. "I feel in limbo," she said.

Miss Allies, 18, asked Hull to bring forward her deferred place on its renowned drama and theatre studies course as soon as the Dearing report's implications became known. She wanted to have three years' higher education without tuition fees. "After all, that is the contract I have accepted," she said.

But the university said it could not help her because the course is so popular. Miss Allies was working on the assumption that she would not get in. She was not prepared to go through clearing and take just any course.

The Government reversal at the end of the week offered her the chance to follow her original plans.

Josie's father, Andrew Allies, is suffering from a long-term illness and can not afford to support her financially.

He was furious with the Government's "stupid" community service idea. "It is government by the seat of the pants," he said.

Jane Lawson, 18, decided to defer her offer from Leeds University to read English and French until 1998 in order to spend a year in France improving her language skills and indulging her passion for competitive skiing. Then the threat of fees emerged.

"I rang Leeds straight away because I knew I couldn't take a year off, it just wouldn't be fair on my parents," she said.

Miss Lawson has a brother at university and although she had her heart set on a gap year, she felt compelled to drop her overseas plans. But at such a late stage in the admissions process, and on a popular course, Leeds said it was doubtful about the chances of offering her a place this year.

Miss Lawson has been unable to find helpful advice about what to do. "Everything I've read in the papers seems muddled."

She contacted UCAS who said they were very concerned and advised her to go through clearing. And although Miss Lawson was still hoping to go to Leeds to study she was resigned to applying elsewhere for a similar course. And she knew she may be forced to accept something less than ideal.

"I will definitely have to look around and be flexible about what course I take," she said.

By the end of the week she was hopeful that she could take her year off after all, and was busy trying to contact Leeds University.

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