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Is Cambridge worth £90K?

  1. Jul 3, 2007 #1
    Is Cambridge worth £90K??

    Hi, I'm a student from Leeds and I am holding an offer to study NatSci at Cambridge University and I was going to specialize in physics.

    The problem is, that although I've been thru an English High School (an inner city state crap one at that) and 6th Form, I'm still classed as an overseas student (I was born in Japan) and hence I have to pay huge tuition fee. Their tuition fee plus the college fee and living cost puts the estimated cost at £22500 per year, i.e. £90K over 4 years.

    My family isn't exacly rich, or even average, and this is impossible to pay. However, my kind grandparents in Japan are willing to sell their house to fund my course. I am not sure whether this is a good choice, because in two years time (2009 entry) I'd be classed as a home student and will only have to pay normal fees. However, I'd lose my offer if I wait and I'm not confident that I will get accepted again. I am pretty sure I can still get into a good uni again though, because I have 6 grade A A levels. Another bad thing is that I will have been away from education for 3 years because I have already deferred entry once thsi year. I think it'll be quite difficult to get myself back up to speed again.

    I get the feeling that this is a once in a lifetime chance to study at one of the best uni in the world, but I am just not sure whether it's worth all the money. I'd also feel incredibly guilty and pressured from the fact that my grandparents had to sell their house and spend their savings on me. Also, as a subject Physics isn't exactly highly profitable after graduation so that's also a big factor.

    I'd like some opinions on this matter. Should I go for it this year, or should I wait because it's not worth the huge money? Could you please explain your reasonings. Thanks.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2007
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  3. Jul 3, 2007 #2


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    I don't think anyone can tell you what to do. If you're willing to accept 90 grand off your grandparents to go to uni, then go for it-- personally, I wouldn't.

    I guess it depends upon a few factors. What do you intend to do after your degree? Do you want to do a PhD or get a job? If it's the latter, then I wouldn't worry about going to Cambridge, as it's not gonna make that much difference. If it's the former, then perhaps it's worth thinking about. Another point is, who estimated the cost per year? I thought tuition fees for overseas students were circa 12k, so Im not sure where you got the rest from (unless college fees are more expensive for overseas students).

    One thing I don't think you should do is wait, unless you're happy getting some sort of short term job for a few years. There are other universities in this country that are very good for Physics, you know!
  4. Jul 3, 2007 #3
    Hi, thanks for the reply. I know the choice is up to me but I just wanted to know what others thought about it.

    The estimated cost was done by Cambridge themselves. I haven't got the figures with me right now but I think consists of £12000 tuition fee, £4500 college fee (compulsory donation to the college, grrrrr) and £6000 living expenses. I need to present them with a proof that I have enough funds before 15th August.

    If I went to a different uni, the cost would be about £18000 (£12000 for tuition, as you said) per year, or if I stay at home and go to Leeds Uni it'll be about £13000 per year. It's still a lot of money, so my feeling was that if I'm paying lots anyway, I might as well go to the best.

    You said that one thing I shouldn't do is wait, but I really don't have any options :frown: I really don't wanna wait, but I am seriously put off by the cost.

    So from a job perspective it doesn't make a massive difference? I was wondering about how much better jobs you could get with a degree from Cambridge University. I really don't know what I want to do after uni at this point.
  5. Jul 3, 2007 #4


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    This, and the following, is just my opinion. For subjects like physics and maths and probably the other sciences (although I'm not familiar with them) it is better to go to university straight from school since they are the sort of subjects where, if you don't study for two or three years, you can fall behind with knowledge. There's also the question as to whether if you are out of education for that long you will be able to slip back into the routine of studying easily.

    Again, these are my opinions, but I don't think that it'll make all that much difference in the jobs open to you if you are looking at jobs that are not related to physics (like banking, etc etc.)-- as long as you go to one of the top ten or so universities then you'll get an interview to go on graduate schemes. As an example, I know various people who are in my year at university (i was at nottingham) and have gone into many wide ranged graduate schemes; a couple of people I know got 2:1 degrees and are working in london for investment banks. I think these companies only look to see that you've got a degree from a reputable university, and not that you've got one from the best university in the country.

    I'm sure it would be an excellent opportunity, and experience to go to cambridge, but you have to be 100% sure that it's what you want, especially given the way that you're getting the money to study.
  6. Jul 3, 2007 #5
    I don't know much about your situation and currently, I'm still an undergraduate in an average university.

    But after reading your post, if I were you, getting money from my grandma (from selling a house) would be the last thing that I want to do. I'm not trying to offend you, but imagine someone spending 30 years on a house mortgage just to have it sold when he/she retired... I'm sure your grandparents loves you a lot, but to retired seniors, a home is often the most important thing they need (and quite often, the only thing they really have) (for average people).
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2007
  7. Jul 3, 2007 #6
    It might be worth trying to contact an admissions officer at Cambridge to explain your situation. If you were, say, an orphaned refugee from Darfur with straight A's, I'm sure they would find a way for you to attend.

    Keep us posted... I hope good things work out for you.
  8. Jul 3, 2007 #7


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    I wouldn't advise him to hold his breath on this. Overseas students have to pay overseas fees for a reason; namely that the government doesn't see that it should pay to put overseas students through English universities (which is fair enough). I think you probably have to live in the UK for 10 years before you can pay home fees.

    And, with respect to then "finding a way for you to attend," maybe if you were orphaned and from a third world country they may be more sympathetic, but he's not. The university will much rather take on someone who is able to pay the fees!
  9. Jul 3, 2007 #8


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    I'm pretty sure that at some point in your early twenties you become classed as a mature student if you apply as an undergrad, and once again the fees may go up. I'd check exactly what that age is if you are considering holding out a couple of years.
  10. Jul 3, 2007 #9
    I have been contacting the admission office for some time now. But they are no help. They even declined my application for bursaries because they thought my funds deficit was too big.

    You are right in saying it's 10 years before you can be classed as a home student. Either that or 5 years with work permit. Either way, you need indefinite leave to remain from the home office. Unfortunately I will fulfill both at the same time.

    About the refugee thing, it's really frustrating for me and I think it's unfair. My family have been paying taxes at higher rate since we came over and we don't get any support, while the refugees can just come into the country and go to uni paying only normal fees (or not even that, coz they'd be getting bursaries from the public funds!).
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
  11. Jul 3, 2007 #10
    If I was in your situation, I wouldn't let my grandparents do that. Unless it was a life threaten situation, then yes, but not for some reputable school fund.

    Future and GOOD employers look more than where you got your degree.
  12. Jul 3, 2007 #11


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    Japan has some excellent Universities. Have you considered one of them?
  13. Jul 3, 2007 #12
    Yeah, cast another vote for not letting your grandparents sell their house. If they had the money, and they were going to loan it to you or just give it to you, I would say that it's tough, but you should accept their generous offer. However, letting them sell their house is WAY too far!

    There must be another way.
  14. Jul 4, 2007 #13
    I would check out some schools in the United States also. For instance, I got my BSEE at California State University at Long Beach. It is about £6500 per year for nonresidents for tuition (plus of course living expenses).
  15. Jul 4, 2007 #14
    Yeah I had considered studying in another country, but I thought I might as well go all the way and get the Indefinite Leave to Remain status here since I've been here for so long. If I left the country for more than 3 months, I'd have to start from scratch all over again! I'm sort of tied to this country even though it's not willing to support me in ANY way. You'd be surprised at how uncompassionate and cold they sounded whenever I called the home office or the department for education. They are normally one step short of saying "tough $%£*".

    I don't want to let them sell the house either. I think it should be saved for when it is REALLY needed. But it's not like they don't have anywhere to go if they sold it though. Another thing I forgot to mention is that I have a younger brother who is finishing his A levels this year. He didn't do as well as me but will still get decent grades (BCC or soemthing) to go to an average uni. Obviously, if I took all the funds he won't be able to go, and I think that's unfair on him. My grans see me as someone worth investing but not him and that's harsh imo.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
  16. Jul 4, 2007 #15
    perhaps you can contact alumni from the school and see how much they earn and decide it based on how much time will be spent at the school and how much time will it be before you can earn back the money to give to your parents...obviously if thats gonna be 10 years it ain't worth it.
    But if you can do it in like 4-6 perhaps its worth it.

    Also have you looked into funding from your home country(japan)...sometimes they offer overseas scholarships to help out and then perhaps your grandparents can supplement the rest.

    However since you've been out of school for it bit that might be your biggest concern.
  17. Jul 4, 2007 #16
    There are good schools in canada too.

    Please don't laught.
  18. Jul 4, 2007 #17
    I studied physics in Canada and I don't really think the school makes a lot of difference for your understanding of the subject. an employer may not think so however but for you, the school does 5% of the work and you do the other 95%. That may be different in the US/UK as you get both the best and the worse schools in the world..
  19. Jul 4, 2007 #18
    Put off by the cost? Try contacting alumni and seeing what kind of jobs they land and the kind of money they make.

    If you're familiar with the concept of Net Present Value from finance, you could try a couple of different discount rates and calculate the net present value of you attending the university vs. you attending somewhere else. See if it really is worth more to you than going elsewhere. However, make sure you check out some of the financial concepts involved, otherwise you might make a bad choice.

    This is misleading, for a couple of reasons. For one it completely ignores timing of the cash flows. His grandparents don't put up all of the cash right away, they pay it over the course of 4-5 years or so. In a sense they're not really paying 90000 all up front, but less in terms of today's dollars.

    Also, if you look at it in a payback sense, you will not account for any cash obtained from the decision after it was paid back. If people ten years removed from graduation are doing quite well, but struggle right up until that tenth year, then you fail to take into account serious earnings made afterwards which again skews your decision.

    It's really not good to compare different options based on how long it would take you to pay them back, unless there's a compelling reason limiting your time frame (which doesn't seem to be the case). This is because you'll more often than not pick the least expensive outcome and lose out on potentially large future earnings. This method has actually fallen heavily out of favor in finance for these reasons. It's almost always NPV analysis or nothing.

    I'd say you ignore any emotional connection you have to your grandparents selling their house and consider the bare essentials of what you'll make, what it costs, and figure out the net present value of your choices. Since any option will be ridiculously expensive for you, its better to at least see if it really is worth more than other options.

    Then after that you can add the intangible of your grandparents selling their house so you can go study at a big name school. Is the difference between choices strong enough in your mind to justify them selling? That's when you ask the question.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
  20. Jul 4, 2007 #19


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    The point is, though, that there is absolutely no guarantee that attending cambridge as opposed to any other top ten university will result in a higher wage-- especially if you're looking at a job away from the subject in which you obtained your degree. Any calculation of this sort will be mainly based on speculation.

    How can anyone do this? His grandparents are offering to sell their house, probably the house in which they've lived together for a while. There's no way that he can, or should, detatch himself from this!
  21. Jul 4, 2007 #20
    No one thinks that way, and I've taken care of that consideration. I just didn't add it with my earlier post.

    You factor that consideration in at the very end when you're all done.

    Well geez, there's no guarantee that ever attending college will get you a good job, yet a lot of people manage to do it.

    Certainly NPV is subjective but does that really mean you shouldn't use it? It allows you to make better decisions then you otherwise would have, which is better than blind speculation.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
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