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Thursday August 20 2009

STUDENT GUIDE AND CLEARING SPECIAL Everything you need to know about student life and how to pick a university


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THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

Student Guide 2009

Inside

BEN GURR

timesonline.co.uk/clearing COVER ILLUSTRATION BY MILES DONOVAN: MILESDONOVAN.CO.UK

4-5 Paying your way

Tips for covering your living costs, taking out a loan and making the best of a bad jobs market

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Style tips Keep up with the cool crowd on campus without busting the budget. Find out where to bag the best bargain outfits and how to put them together

10-11 Web wise As long as you have access to the internet and can tweet there’s no need to invest in the latest gadgets

12-13 Studying abroad Generous scholarships and the chance to join the international set offer students a new focus

14 Gap year Put the Thai beach on hold. With the Bank of Mum and Dad under pressure, many school-leavers are looking at smarter ways to spend their gap year

19-23 Clearing Special A look at 40 universities likely to be offering places

Playing to your strengths: graduates with teamworking skills have the upper hand in the race for jobs

A degree of control over your future If you want to get ahead, a university place is worth striving for, writes Nicola Woolcock

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hy bother going to university and running up thousands of pounds of debt, with no guarantee of your dream job at the end of it? One reason is that the prospects for non-graduates are even less rosy than for those with degrees. Rates of youth unemployment are expected to remain high even when Britain comes out of recession, with the least qualified being the worst affected. Applicants with degrees — plus teamworking and presentation skills — will be much more appealing to employers. With 43 per cent of young people going into higher education, competition is tough but not necessarily overwhelming. There has never been a greater choice of subjects, ranging from architecture to zoology, and students no longer have to commit themselves to a three-year, fulltime BA or BSc, taken in the flush of youth. Thenumber of part-time courses isgrowing to meet demand from mature students, while alternatives to traditional courses include the two-year foundation degree. These often combine academic study with work-based learning. For example, this year’s first graduates of the Tesco retail foundation degree learnt about consumer behaviour, retail law and in-store marketing. The degrees were awarded by Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of the Arts London.

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The joys of shared living, cheap beer and numerous new friendships await this year’s freshers

Some universities offer honours degrees in two years rather than three, with students giving up their long summer break to cram in extra work. However, the traditional picture of a school-leaver preparing to spend the next three years of their life at university remains the norm. As well as expanding the mind and challenging the intellect, university still gives many teenagers their first chance to live away from home. The joys of shared living, cheap beer, new friendships and the chance to join numerous clubs and societies all await this year’s freshers. So does the chance to manage a budget, a skill that will stand graduates in good stead if they do not immediately land a job. Students who start university this summer are expected to have an average debt of £23,200 by the time they graduate, although they will not have to start repaying it until they earn at least £15,000. Yet this generation can count itself relatively lucky. A review of tuition fees is due to begin this autumn and is expected to recommend that the £3,000 cap on top-up tuition fees is lifted. It is not inconceivable that annual fees could rise to £5,000 or £7,000. While graduates are predicted to earn a salary premium of more than £100,000 over theirlifetime compared to non-graduates, this can vary wildly by course and institution. Research suggests that graduates in disciplines such as accountancy and medicine earn considerably more in their working lives than those who take history, art, French or English literature. The Times Good University Guide 2010 (published by HarperCollins and available at timesonline.co.uk/gug) has more detailed information about every institution. Tables show how the universities compare in individual subjects. If you have questions about clearing, e-mail our experts at education@thetimes.co.uk Answers will be posted at timesonline.co.uk/student


THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

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Student Guide 2009

Clearing process

timesonline.co.uk/clearing

Act fast to snap up a place DAVID BEBBER

Competition to make it to university through clearing will be intense this year as more applicants chase fewer vacancies, says John O’Leary

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ll is not lost if today’s results leave you without a place at university. You will have a second chance through the clearing process that universities use to fill their remaining vacancies. But success in clearing will require speed and decisiveness — especially this year. The system operates until the start of the new term but the most desirable options will be snapped up in days. The number of places in clearing has risen for several years — 42,000 students took this route to higher education last summer. But the trend is likely to reverse when the process starts today. Much as the universities would like to recruit more students, government restrictions on enrolments mean that a decline is inevitable. The eleventh-hour addition of 10,000 places will lessen the squeeze in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. But in other subjects, including most of the really popular choices, the only question is: how steep will the drop be? Admissions officers never know exactly how many vacancies will be left when A-level results have been published and the first round of offers works itself out. But because most of those offers were made before ministers decided to limit the number of places in a record year for applications, it must be assumed that a bigger share than usual of the available places will have gone already. Compared with last year there are 52,000 more applicants and only 13,000 more places. Most experts believe that there will be a substantial cut in the number of places available for clearing. But this should leave more than 20,000 places up for grabs from today. The biggest increase in applications has come from people in their twenties or older, who are more likely than schoolleavers to lack formal qualifications and to be restricted by family circumstances to applying for institutions within travelling distance of home. The range of universities in clearing is likely be narrower this year. Oxford and Cambridge never appear in the lists published on the website of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) and the squeeze on places may produce more absentees. But most will have some places available in subjects where applications are low — ironically, mainly in the areas in which extra places have been allocated. In the popular arts and social science

subjects the openings are more likely to come at colleges of higher education and universities in the lower reaches of the league tables. Some them have recruited a quarter, or even a third, of their students through clearing in previous years, so places should be available in most subjects, at least in the early days of clearing. The 40 universities profiled on pages 19-23 of this supplement are those that declared the highest proportion of places filled through clearing in 2007. Some refuse to divulge that figure, while others report surprisingly low clearing activity, perhaps because they think a high proportion reflects badly on the university. But the listings include the likes of Reading and Royal Holloway, from the top 40 in The Times Good University Guide. To stand a chance of winning a place at such universities, it is essential to make an early approach. The process will be even quicker this year because there will be no paper Passport to send through the post. As with the initial applications, everything in clearing will be done online. Applicants will find out through Ucas’s Track system if they are eligible for clearing. After that candidates can approach as many universities or colleges as they wish, including any for which they turned down an offer earlier in the year. Most universities run clearing hotlines, which are the first port of call for applicants.

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Treat clearing like a job application. The process should not be left to parents or friends

A-level students who have not secured a university place can still show their true colours during clearing

Advisers will know where vacancies are available and pass callers on to the relevant department. Every eligible applicant — those without offers from any institution — will be allocated a clearing number, which will appear on the welcome page of the Track system. Universities will ask for this and will use it if they make a provisional or firm offer of a place. The official advice from Ucas is to treat clearing like a job application. By this it means that the process requires care and attention and should not be left to parents or friends. The first task is to draw up a list of realistic targets. The biggest danger in clearing is rushing into a course or institution that turns out to be different from what was expected. Research indicates that there is a higher drop-out rate among those who enter through clearing, often because the student has opted for a different subject to his or her initial choice and at a hastily chosen university. Speed is vital in clearing, but the normal rules of decision making still apply. Consult teachers, glean what information you can from The Times guide and others and visit the campus and department if possible. Scrutinise the syllabus of any prospective course to ensure that it is within your capabilities and will keep you interested for three years or more.


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THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

Student Guide 2009

Fiscal factors

Where to find a job to help pay your way Part-time employment will be in short supply but David Malcolm tells how to lift your chances

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ewspapers have been full of doomladen tales about graduate employment. The class of 2009 has entered one of the worst job markets in recent memory. But the impact of the recession on students does not end there: for those either starting or returning to a course this autumn the chances of finding part-time employment are likely to be similarly affected. For most full-time undergraduates, part-time employment is a vital source of supplementary income. Many studies indicate that at least 50 per cent of students work during term time and a higher percentage during holidays. About 70 per cent of those who work say they do so to cover basic living expenses. Althoughstudents now face greater competition for such jobs, they can take steps to maximise their chances. Most universities have a job shop, which will help to write CVs and personal statements and advise on interview techniques. Student unions often employ large numbers of student staff, usually on good pay. The trick is to apply before term starts because any jobs are usually gone by Freshers’ Week. Self-employment can also be fruitful. If you have particular skills, such as design or computer programming, you can advertise these on sites such as Student Gems. One of the most common questions the National Union of Students is asked is how many hours a student should work: 16 hours a week is often mentioned. However, the answer depends on your circumstances — a history student with ten hours of formal classes a week might be able to work more than a medical student with 35.

Research indicates a correlation between a high number of hours worked and the likelihood of a lower degree classification. Consider when you work too; night shifts pay better but can have a deleterious effect on coursework. You should be paid at least the minimum wage — £4.83 an hour from October if you are aged 18 to 21 or £5.80 an hour if older. All employees are entitled to a written contract and a rest period if their shift is six hours or longer. A list of rights is available on www.direct. gov.uk/employees. One way to ensure that these are upheld is to join a trade union. Another issue to consider is tax. Students are liable for income tax, contrary to popular belief. Most, however, do not earn above the personal allowance (the amount everyone can earn before tax is applied, £6,475 in 2009-10), and can seek a refund. National Association of Student Employment Services, www.nases.org.uk; www.studentgems.com; www.hmrc.gov.uk/incometax David Malcolm is student finance researcher at the National Union of Students

NatWest Student Living Index 2009 Previous year’s ranking 4 8 13 * 24 6 20 2 21 18 22 7 1 17 5 11 3 * 15 19

1 Brighton 2 Liverpool 3 Glasgow 4 Reading 5 Manchester 6 Bristol 7 Leicester 8 Cambridge 9 Oxford 10 Edinburgh 11 Birmingham 12 Leeds 13 Plymouth 14 Cardiff 15 Portsmouth 16 Newcastle 17 Dundee 18 Norwich 19 Nottingham 20 York * new entry this year Analysis of weekly living costs compared with weekly earnings from part-time work


THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

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Student Guide 2009 timesonline.co.uk/clearing

Other options if you have to change course

How student bank accounts compare

Interestfree overdraft

Authorised overdraft interest rate

Unauthorised overdraft interest rate

Unauthorised overdraft charge

John O’Leary considers the alternatives to conventional full-time university studies Incentives

Abbey

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5+

£1,000 £1,250 £1,500 £1,800 £2,000

9.9%

28.7%

£5-£35

Barclays Bank

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

up to £2,000 up to £2,000 up to £2,000 up to £2,000 up to £2,000

8.9%

Nil

£22

Specialist advice service and mobile broadband offer

Clydesdale Bank

None

Year 1 — 7.49% (up to £1,000) Year 2+ — 7.49% (up to £3,000)

29.99%

£25

Commission-free travellers’ cheques and currency

The Co-operative Bank

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3

£1,400 £1,700 £2,000

9.9%

15.9%

Nil

HSBC

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

up to £1,000 up to £1,250 up to £1,500 up to £1,750 up to £2,000

3% above base rate

3.5%

Nil

Discounts on mobiles, computer equipment and entertainment, specialist advice service and travel insurance

Halifax

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

up to £3,000 up to £3,000 up to £3,000 up to £3,000 up to £3,000

7.2%

24.2%

£28

Breakdown cover and commission-free travellers’ cheques and currency

Lloyds TSB

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6

£1,500 £1,500 £1,500 £2,000 £2,000 £2,000

8.2%

8.2%

£8-£20

Specialist advice service, breakdown cover, discounts on mobiles and music downloads and commission-free travellers’ cheques and currency

NatWest

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

up to £1,250 up to £1,400 up to £1,600 up to £1,800 up to £2,000

N/A

17.81%

Nil

Five-year railcard; discounts on broadband, laptops, shopping; specialist advice service

Royal Bank of Scotland

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

up to £2,750 up to £2,750 up to £2,750 up to £2,750 up to £2,750

N/A

29.84%

£10

Three-year railcard; free USB stick; discounts on broadband, laptops, holidays and entertainment

Smile

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4

£1,000 £1,400 £1,800 £2,000

9.9%

15.9%

Nil

Yorkshire Bank

None

Year 1 — 7.49% (up to £1,000) Year 2 + — 7.49% (up to £3,000)

29.99%

£25

Commission-free travellers’ cheques and currency

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his year, above all years, it will make sense for A-level candidates to explore their options beyond the conventional full-time degree course. Not only will degree places be at a premium, but the jobs market for graduates and non-graduates alike is depressed and unpredictable. Those whose results do not secure the university place they had hoped for will have another chance through clearing. But even that will not do the trick for many of them, including some who will be unwilling to “trade down” to courses they would not have considered initially. About 14,000 university and college applicants withdraw from the Ucas system each year, rather than failing to win a place. Some find jobs or apprenticeships, others return to their studies to improve their grades, still others opt for professional courses or go travelling. Inevitably the pool of young people seeking jobs or alternative courses will be larger this year. But there will still be openings for those who are quick off the mark. One option is to take a part-time degree and combine it with work, where it is available, or even with claiming the Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is allowed as long as the course does not occupy more than 16 hours a week so you are available for work. From the Open University’s distance learning courses to foundation degrees at further education colleges, there are plenty of opportunities. At Birkbeck, the University of London’s specialist provider of part-time courses, applications are up by 15 per cent — a much bigger rise than any university in the capital has attracted for full-time courses. Professor David Latchman, the Master of Birkbeck, says: “Particularly in a recession, students like the fact that they can start a course but still take a job if one comes up that is right for them, or claim benefits if they have to. We are probably doing a bit better than average because we have put a lot of work into finding financial support for students, but my impression is that part-time applications are up.” As Birkbeck courses are designed to occupy three quarters of the time taken to study a full-time course, students can be eligible for grants of up to £1,210, depend-

ing on their income. The college has made a £500,000 donation that will attract more money from the Government and help to subsidise up to 150 more students. Financial support for part-time students is notoriously complex, partly because there are so many different types of course. It is by no means as generous as that for full-time courses but thereis more opportunity for paid work — if you can find it. Another option is an apprenticeship, which can be the first rung on a particular career ladder or a delayed route into higher education. The Government is committed to establishing 21,000 apprenticeships in the public sector to add to those already provided by private companies. They include 5,000 in the NHS. Even apprenticeships are not easy to come by: the number has dropped during the recession, despite ministerial promises of expansion. But 18-year-olds with the qualifications to enter higher education in previous years will be in a good position to secure those available. Recruitment in that age group has been holding up better than for 16-year-olds or older applicants. The other main avenue for those with A levels is professional training, either

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Students can start a course but still take a job if the right one comes up

through a further education college, a private provider or an employer. Some firms are still recruiting 18-year-olds and there is a growing number of private colleges specialising in professional training, mainly in business subjects or law. Pitman Training, for example, has been offering secretarial and business courses for many years, while BPP, which has more than 5,000 students in London, Leeds and Manchester, can even award degrees, and recruits for some courses through Ucas. But the most common route into the professions, outside universities, is through further education colleges. Many offer foundation degrees, which can lead to an honours degree or a job. Maggie Scott, director of policy at the Association of Colleges, says: “Further education colleges are ready and willing to take more students this year but it is a matter of getting the funding. Those who miss out on a university place should go to their local college for an advice session.” Useful websites: Narrowing options, www.notgoingtouni.co.uk; Apprenticeships, www.apprenticeships.org.uk; Grants and loans, www.direct.gov.uk


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THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

Student Guide 2009

Cooking

Healthy recipes to entice the ketchup addicts Nick Wyke joins a freshers’ cookery course to learn how to shop and cook on a budget

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t a house in Rickmansworth,Hertfordshire, teenagers are learning how to put the fresh into freshers’ cuisine. “Everyone will want to share with us,” says Eleanor Batterham, 18, from Bath, who is going to study at Edinburgh University after her gap year. “We could even start a supper club,” adds Sishy Goodall, 17, from Oxford, who wants to study languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Judging by their salad — mixed leaves, fresh figs, goat’s cheese and crushed walnuts with an orange and fennel seed

dressing — served with homemade lamb burgers and chilli marinaded chicken, they will be the toast of first-year kitchens. The day-long Food for Freshers course, which costs £230, is hosted by Kumud Gandhi of The Cooking Academy. The day starts with an exploration of store-cupboardingredients. “These are your foundation. Learn what they can do and the rest flows from here,” says Gandhi. The course is chatty and hands-on. Garden fresh herbs are torn, rubbed, sniffed and nibbled and spices tested for heat. The students learn how to chop an onion, use correct measurements and the health benefits of various ingredients. For example, fennel helps ease indigestion and heart burn, while chilli and ginger can boost poor circulation. “Moving away from home and starting college can be a very stressful time,” says Gandhi. “Cooking is a basic life skill not taught at school. The course aims to give teenagers the confidence to play around with good food.” The students learn step-by-step how to

TOM PILSTON

Kumud Gandhi shows her students how to put the fresh into their freshers’ cuisine. The cost of the day-long food course is £230

prepare eight simple, nutritionally balanced recipes (including mixed bean chilli con carne, poached salmon, fish pie and a freshers’ flu remedy). Initially, they all profess that they love the idea of cooking but lack practical experience. “I don’t have the confidence to cook like mum,” says Batterham. Goodall confesses to a ketchup addiction (“even with risotto”) and reckons that if she does not have fresh food, she will be lethargic and sleep through most of university.

Gandhi says that “the kitchen cupboard promises to offer more effective solutions to our health problems than the medicine cabinet”. She includes oily fish, spinach, nuts, sunflower seeds, broccoli, honey and fruits high in antioxidants on her list of performance enhancing foods. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast and drinking lots of water, Gandhi adds, are two of the most important dietary habits to form early on. timesonline.co.uk/recipes


THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

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Student Guide 2009

Freshers’ Week

timesonline.co.uk/clearing

Time to party if swine flu does not spoil the fun DAVID BEBBER

Frivolity and excess will be curtailed if students end up in quarantine, writes Jack Malvern

The knowledge 6 Unavoidable topics of conversation include: A levels, gap years, sex, politics, vegetarianism and the weirdo at the end of the corridor.

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reshers’ Week is a time for rituals, and none is older or more reliable than the outbreak of freshers’ flu, the bacterial and viral fiesta that takes place when illnesses from various parts of thecountry findan abundance of new hosts in which to multiply. Students are arguably more effective at spreading disease among themselves than they are at doing anything else in their first week at university. The combination of libertarian attitudes to snogging and medieval standards of hygiene means that undergraduates take to flu like Frenchmen to high-tar cigarettes. This usually results in little more than a spike in the sales of Sudafed, but universities are genuinely worried this year about an outbreak of swine flu. The student union at Leicester University, for example, is anticipating having to cancel some freshers’ events. Other seats of learning have drawn up plans to quarantine students in their halls of residence in the name of keeping their undergraduates alive. This is worrying indeed. What price death when the alternative is a generation of students who have no idea whether it is possible to drink a half pint in every pub in the high street of their university town? Do university authorities have no regard for the fast food industry? Freshers’ Week is to kebab shop owners as the Grand National is to bookies. They set themselves up for the financial year and establish a loyal customer base at the same time. Freshers’ Week is, for most students, the high-water mark for frivolity. The rest of student life is comparatively staid compared to the orgy of permissiveness that comes with the sudden realisation that you have all of the freedoms of adult life without any of the responsibilities. Those living in catered halls of residence do not even have to buy their own lavatory paper. To be slightly melodramatic, it is the supernova of childhood — the last fireball of a dying star that will soon collapse under its own weight and begin to suck light out of the universe. Rulesare so fluidthat it is considered perfectly all right to decorate your room with clumsily whittled ornaments acquired on your gap year, or quasi-humorous posters about the merits of drinking beer. Activities that would be cringeworthy at any other stage of life are suddenly encouraged. There are, just this once, no penalties

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6 Apparently esoteric gap year activities, some distinctly unpleasant, will have been undertaken by a surprisingly large number of people. 6 Retro is cool in clothes, children’s television programmes and gadgets such as a SodaStream. 6 You will be showered with freebies, all of which will be worthless. 6 Guitars and bongos will be endearing at first, then will either be forgotten or become monstrously irritating. 6 There will be Goths. They usually study physics. 6 Girls who wear pink pashminas and drive Volkswagen Polos study history of art. 6 The library will have three copies of a text considered indispensable to 1,000 students. SOURCES: The Bluffer’s Guide to University, Times archive

Freshers’ Week is the high-water mark for frivolity. Students discover they have all the freedoms of adulthood without the responsibilities

for wearing a leather waistcoat, subsisting on a diet of cooked-breakfast-in-a-tin, professing an interest in Scientology, opining that the world can only truly be understood through the films of Wim Wenders, wearing your hair like Danny from McFly, or drinking a volume of cider that would elicit a disapproving glance from Oliver Reed. During Freshers’ Week, as in traditional festivities such as Twelfth Night, judgment is suspended and eccentricity celebrated. Although swine flu is unlikely to prohibit all of this exuberance, it seems likely that the most extravagant parts will be curtailed. This may have its advantages. Freshers’ Week can be disconcertingly expensive at a time when you need to set aside

money for less hedonistic accessories, such as books vital for your course. Freshers are under constant pressure to buy tickets for events — usually with dubious-sounding names such as The Romp — with the threat that failure to attend will result in social ignominy. The threat is always empty. It is easy to make friends in other ways, and doing so while in swine flu quarantine may be as good as any other. A reduced amount of hedonistic behaviour may also inhibit another important ritual: forming a large and unwieldy group of friends in the first week and then attempting to avoid them for the rest of the year when you discover that they are ghastly. This tradition of shedding acquaintanc-

es may seem unnecessary, but is an extremely effective way of working out what makes a good friend. Like mumps, it is an experience worth going through early. Working out that you dislike someone only after you have agreed to share a house with them is nothing short of disastrous. The most important thing to remember, however, is that there is nothing to fear. There will be so many people of your age from such a diverse cross-section of society that you will always find someone to like. No matter how shy or eccentric you are, there will be people who understand you or who make you look exuberant and suave by contrast. Revel in it — andremember to wash your hands after sneezing.


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THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

Student Guide 2009

Style on a shoestring

Combine cut-price with cool

Corinne Abrams offers tips for bagging bargain outfits without forsaking campus cred

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tudents used to have a monopoly on the musty, fusty interiors of charity shops and the likes of Primark and New Look. But in these difficult times student shopping meccas are overrun by newly converted bargain hunters. As the recession sweeps the country, charity and bargain basement shops are thriving and students are having to compete with the crème de la crème of canny shoppers. Cancer Research was forced to launch a campaign earlier this year urging people to donate more clothes as demand outstripped supply. Mary Portas, the shopping guru, has not made the situation any easier by sprucing up the outlets in her TV show Mary Queen of Charity Shops and drawing in the fashion crowd. We travelled to Oxford, Brighton and Sheffield to check out student shopping habits and found that students are experts at looking good on a budget. Few opted for designer gear, making do with home-made clothes, five-year-old high street buys and many a charity shop find. That is not to say that they were slipping in the style stakes. After roaming around the campuses we found that their thrifty attitude to clothes shopping had produced individual and trendy results. There was the odd ripped jean and many outfits were well worn but none of the students had let it all hang out and reverted to Nineties grunge. Some used the trick of one “investment” piece to make an outfit look fashionable — a pair of slightly pricey sunglasses or a good leather bag that will last for years. Others relied on Topshop for their upto-the-minute pieces. There is a magic ingredient to this fashion recipe. With

some courses clocking up just nine hours of compulsory lectures a week, students are cash-poor but time-rich. They have time to rummage through racks of clothes at TK Maxx, time to try on four different outfits before leaving the house and time to spend four hours shopping and come away with just a pair of tights. Pia Bramley, a third-year illustration student at Brighton University, advises students in search of a bargain to look off the beaten track. “It’s difficult to find nice clothes in the charity shops here as the good stuff is sold really quickly. I go home to Kent to shop, it’s much better,” she says. Other students have found innovative ways of saving money. Alicia Awad, a performance and visual arts student from Brighton, makes all her own clothes: “I buy clothes that are too small and adapt them because the fashion industry does not cater for people my shape. I spend about £30 a month on clothes, including fabrics. You can get a whole roll of fabric from the market for £3.” Meanwhile, Sheffield student Robert Bigio endorses the “wear it until it falls off your back” approach. “I haven’t really had any new clothes in two years,” he says. “I dress mostly in hand-me-downs from friends and family and charity shops. I have had the same wardrobe for a very long time.” Almost all the students agreed that when it came to campus style, anything goes. Sheffield student Alex Webb says: “Some people turn up to lectures looking like they are wearing their pyjamas.” So how can you bag a bargain? Skip the vintage shop and go straight to the charity shop. Fashions are so fleeting nowadays that people often donate this season’s styles to charity. Go with a shopping list. Make up basics from the high street and find your cool pieces second hand. Look out for designer collections created specially for high street stores — Jimmy Choo shoes will appear in H&M this autumn, for example. If you insist on designer labels visit shopping outlets such as Bicester Village or go online to www.theoutnet.com, the latest website from Net-A-Porter’s Natalie Massenet. And look for nearly new clothes and discount designer items on eBay.

1 Make investment purchases A smart handbag like this can turn an outfit around


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Student Guide 2009 timesonline.co.uk/clearing

i Where to shop

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Prou Liptapanlop, 21 studying economics and management at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, says: “I rely on chain stores for basics but bought this bag in Spitalfields market, London, for £50. The top is from Thailand, where I’m from.”

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Jessica Hartley, 19 studying biology at Sheffield , says: “I have changed my style since coming to university. I’m more experimental now.” Her shoes, £15, and tights, £9, are Topshop, her T-shirt American Apparel, £20, and her bag was £10 in a Miss Selfridge sale. The jacket, seen in a magazine for £95, cost £15 at Freshman’s Vintage, Brighton.

2 Make a statement University is the time to experiment with your style

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Robert Smallman, 25 who is studying sculpture at Brighton, says he spends “next to nothing” on clothes. His jumper is his best mate’s and his cagoule cost £1.75 from a charity shop.

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Cece Abbassi, 24 a music, visual art and performance student at Brighton, likes clothes but finds shopping boring. “I just get something if I come across it.” Her shoes are Office, £15, skirt and top £6, all from Traid, Brixton, London. The bag came from Accessorize years ago.

4 Go for seconds Cece buys most of her clothes at discount shops

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Chris Moger, 21 a philosophy student at Sheffield, buys clothes for fun . “I go to all the vintage shops in Sheffield.” His shoes cost £15, bag, £15, and T-shirt, £10; the Tommy Hilfiger shorts came from his father and the cardigan, from Uniqlo, was a present .

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Richard Stacey, 22 a music and visual art student at Brighton, spends £50 to £100 a month on clothes. “If there is something I like, I’ll get it.” His shoes, £2, and hat came from Camden market, London, his jeans from Dirty Harry’s, Brighton, where he also bought his jumper. The bag is from a festival and his watch was a present

3 Swap clothes Most of Robert’s outfit is borrowed from friends

5 Be creative Chris’s jumper comes from the women’s section

Do not be afraid to accessorise The hat, bag and watch make this outfit

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THE TIMES Thursday August 20 2009

Student Guide 2009

Technology and gadgets

The best things in life are free once you’re on the net Never mind all the costly gadgetry, web access is all you need, says Murad Ahmed

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tudents may think they need the latest technology to see their way through university life — the newestiPhone,aflatscreen TV and all the rest. In reality, all you really need these days is the internet. Insist on a decent connection and then buy a device that gets you on to the web as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Start by looking into netbooks. These are small, cheap laptops whose sole purpose is to get you on the net. If you want a

large hard drive, capable of storing a lot of stuff — such as yourextensive music collection — be prepared to pay more. A cut-price option is the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, at around £199. The cheapest version has just an 8MB hard drive — less memory than some iPods. You may want to pay £50 more for a version with 160GB, enough for most needs. Either way, it is slim, sleek and small. A more costly option is the HP Mini-Note 2140, an excellent netbook with more battery power than others. However, at £380, you might be able to get a low-end laptop at the same price. When it comes to music, iPods are still the main option for good, portable music players. But who needs a huge digital music collection these days? If you download the free music streaming service, Spotify, you can access more than six million tracks. Last.fm is also music software worth downloading. You will have to put up with hearing adverts on these services, but at least they cost nothing.

JIM CRAIGMYLE/CORBIS

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DVDs have become as important as teabags and clean underwear to many

i Go to the Docs Listen to an MP3 player while studying or try streaming free music with Spotify

You may need to invest in some speakers. Creative and Logitech are good brands that offer value for money but the cheapest option is a USB speaker that plugs straight into a netbook. One example is the B-Flex 2 speaker by JLab. For £22.99, it beats the tinny sound of most laptops. What about television and movies? Well, between the BBC’s iPlayer and numerous video-streaming services just out or set to launch soon — including Hulu and the MSN video player — there should be more

than enough decent programmes that you can stream and view from your PC, all free. That said, DVDs have become as important as teabags and clean underwear to many. Some might invest in a decent laptop with a DVD player. An alternative is a portable DVD drive, which you can just plug into your computer when you want it. Samsung has a good slimline drive for around £44, or there is a slightly better one by Buffalo for about £73. Check Amazon and price comparison sites for the best deals.

The days of needing a computer with Microsoft Office are long gone. For anyone with a Google account online, Google Docs is free and does most things you might need for your studies, such as word processing. These files are saved on your account on the web, which means you can access them wherever you are and from whatever computer you are using.


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Student Guide 2009

Virtual campus

timesonline.co.uk/clearing

We’ll be brief about this . . . Colleges are learning to use Twitter to get their message across, says Joanna Sugden

U

niversities have started using Twitter to communicate with students, keep in touch with alumni and recruit prospective applicants. If you are off to college this term, arm yourself with a Twitter account, so you do not miss a moment of Freshers’ Week and you know what your new friend got up to last night and how they feel the morning after. Student unions and lecturers also use the micro-blogging site to announce gigs and ask students their thoughts on lectures in 140 character updates. It is estimated that half the universities in the UK are on Twitter. Many have only just started, but not all of them are making the most of it, according to Nic Mitchell, who runs Teesside University’s Twitter account. “All they do is announce the latest press

releases,” he says. “What we are trying to do, if people are saying something about us, is respond to enter some sort of debate. It’s social networking for grown-ups, it’s not like Facebook.” Even before students arrive this autumn, universities are encouraging them to follow the institution’s Twitter feed. Goldsmiths, the London University college, has a Twitter account for new students with guides to the college, information about jobs on campus and ways to beat the queues during registration. Some will announce the few places they have in clearing with up-to-the-minute numbers on the site. Thames Valley University has a Clearing Guru on Twitter to help students to navigate the process. Ucas, the admissions service, also tweets and will be offering students advice. Beth Hayes, who edits the Ucas website, says: “A lot of people are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon but we put off setting up an account until we had thought it through carefully. We aren’t using it as a promotional tool. We’re using it as an information tool to help applicants.” Lecturers at Sheffield Hallam use Twitter to gather student opinion on lecture halls and study areas. Liz Aspden, senior lecturer in curriculum innovation, says: “There’s a lot of potential. Tools and appli-

DUNCAN USHER/ALAMY

Twitter is being used to get information to new students and to advise on clearing places

cations like Twitpic and hashtag topics can help us tailor its use within an academic environment.” Students upload pictures via Twitpic or join in conversations by adding a “hashtag” to a subject they want to discuss. The long arm of Twitter even reaches those who are leaving or have left univers-

ity, with careers service and alumni accounts in action at Keele, Robert Gordon and University of Central Lancashire. A final tweet-length word of warning: tweeting may be the new texting but don’t spend all your time behind a screen at university or you will have nothing to tweet about.


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Student Guide 2009

Studying abroad

Game on for the Amerr

Generous scholarships could lure UK students across the Atlantic, says Nicola Woolcock

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ost school-leavers with wanderlust who fancy studying in America dream of Ivy League universities such as Harvard and Yale. But there is a little-known and far cheaper alternative that virtually guarantees talented British students a place at an American university or college. A consortium of state universities and smaller colleges in the United States is keen to attract British students and offers generous scholarships to lure them across the Atlantic. Although such institutions cost less to attend than household names, such as Princeton and Columbia, they still charge between $20,000 (about £12,250) and $43,000 a year (including living costs). However, academic and sports scholarships can cover at least half that. The universities are said to be keen to attract British students to bring an international flavour to their campuses and to boost their reputations. InTuition Scholarships, which describes itself as a mini-Ucas, represents 120 universities across America. It guarantees that every suitable sports applicant will receive a minimum of nine offers and five of these will cover at least half the student’s tuition and living costs each year. At least 15 offers are guaranteed for

suitable candidates seeking academic scholarships. These are awarded based on students’ prior achievement as well as their potential and willingness to share ideas and experiences with classmates from other countries. Candidates should be in line to achieve at least two good A levels. Rather than apply to individual universities, which is time consuming and expensive, students can go through InTuition, the central point set up by the institutions to handle scholarship applications. Those represented include universities in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma and Michigan. InTuition negotiates with appropriate universities to secure offers then these are presented together in a report so the student can compare them before choosing. Sports-mad teenagers who want to take advantage of the facilities at American universities can apply for scholarships in tennis, golf, football or basketball. Eligible candidates attend an annual trial showcase in Florida each July, where sports coaches and admissions directors from the universities come to watch the students play. They assess their talents, confidence and attitude and make them offers accordingly. An Intuition spokesman says: “There has definitely been an Obama effect since January this year, in terms of numbers applying for scholarships in the United States. It may be due also to the issue of top-up tuition fees [at British universities].” Mainstream state colleges are striving to attract more international students, the spokesman adds. Prospective students do have to pay InTuition upfront to apply but this sum is refunded if they do not receive guaranteed scholarship offers. Applying for an academic scholarship costs $2,400 and the sports award programme costs $3,250, which includes two weeks in Florida. InTuition estimates that the amount payable after a scholarship is still considerably less than the total cost of tuition, board and lodging at a British university because the cost of living is cheaper in the United States.

Just out of curiosity, I ended up at Harvard

I

decided to study in America after my curiosity for alternatives to Oxbridge was aroused. When my AS level results came out I browsed American university websites and found myself motivated to complete an application to Harvard. The lists of extracurricular opportunities were almost overwhelming and I loved the idea of Harvard’s international status and diverse assortment of students. I completed the application in six weeks and generally found the process to be more toil than challenge. Although the SAT exams ( the standardised US tests for college admission) are long, the multiple-choice format is not too difficult. However, I needed advice from those familiar with the American system in order to write my application essays, as the focus on personal character means they

are completely different from the more academic British essays. I was accepted and have spent the past two years at Harvard, which have passed at whirlwind speed. In my first semester, I found myself being taught by a Pulitzer prizewinner and was submerged in a level of work comparable to the A-level cramming period. I soon became accustomed to feeling star-struck, as incredible achievements among faculty and students are the norm, while renowned figures, including Al Gore and Ban Ki-moon, frequently visit to give talks to students. I don’t know a single Harvard student who is content with merely tackling the immense amount of work, and most take on two or three serious extracurricular activities. My own biggest commitment is as a journalist for the opinion section of the college newspaper, The Harvard

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My biggest extracurricular commitment is as a journalist for the college newspaper

Crimson. The daily paper owns its own printing press and presents an incredible opportunity to practise professional journalism. Living on another continent has had a major impact on my university experience. In addition to having to adjust to a new set of customs and being a foreigner, I have gained perspective on Britain’s place in the world. My close friends from New Zealand, Brazil and Egypt mean I no longer consider English customs, education and politics to be standard practice and have been exposed to a huge variety of cultural backgrounds. Life at Harvard can sometimes seem overwhelming, simply because of the range of opportunities on offer. However, the breadth of my university experiences and the diversity of students I meet mean that the challenge is worthwhile. Olivia Goldhill


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r rican dream i Case Study Matthew NicholsonLewis, l eft, plays tennis at national level and will probably use his skills to secure a place next year at an American university. Nicholson-Lewis, 17, who lives near Cambridge, has received offers of scholarships from 18 universities in the US, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan and North Carolina. He started playing tennis at the age of six and is taking A levels in sociology, PE and maths. He says: “Quite a few people keen on tennis go to universities in the US because they can get a good scholarship. It makes it cheap. I went through InTuition and had to give my CV and a personal statement. They gave it out to universities they thought would be interested. “I went to Miami in July for a trial and was out there for 12 days. For about eight days I played and had university people watching me. “Most probably I will go to an American university. I’m looking forward to it. I hope to study sociology or PE and would play tennis for three hours a day, five days a week. “Quite a lot of people I play with are doing the same thing and going out to the US.”

New friends and new places to go Even going to college at home can turn you into a globetrotter, says Nicola Woolcock

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tudents staying on home soil could find that their university experience gives them a chance to travel, according to new research. More than a third of students who go to university in the UK end up trotting the globe thanks to the friends they make. The survey, by Unite, the student accommodation provider, found that graduates were more likely to have international friends of different cultures and religions than non-graduates. Many of these friendships have led to trips abroad for business or for pleasure. Meanwhile more than three quarters of non-students feel they have missed out on experiences abroad because they did not go to university, the survey suggested. Three fifths of former students say the contacts they made at university were also important when it came to their careers, showing that the old boys’ and girls’ network is alive and well. More than two in five said that a friend from university had directly set them up for a job interview or introduced them to a potential employer. A quarter had landed a job because of a friend or contact from university. Going to university helps to boost circles of friends dramatically, the survey indicates. It found that people who go to university end up with 15 very close friends, compared with ten for those who do not study for a degree. And graduates even benefit in the

romantic stakes. One in five former students are married to or in a long-term relationship with their university boyfriend or girlfriend. This rises to almost half of students who were at Worcester and 64 per cent at Bath. Unite interviewed 5,283 people aged 25 to 45. Nathan Goddard, the sales and marketing director for Unite, says: “In the current climate, a degree alone doesn’t always guarantee you a job — it’s also the people you meet and the friends you make along the way that could help you get ahead. “Our research shows that people who go to university make strong social networks which help to set them up for life; whether it be work, lasting friendships or even marriage.” A separate survey showed that it may pay for students to choose a university in another country — even if it is part of the United Kingdom. The research looked at the most expensive and cheapest places for student housing. The average weekly rent is £62.61, an increase of 1.6 per cent on last year and a rise of almost a fifth in the past five years. Unsurprisingly, London is the most expensive place for student property, with average weekly rents of £104. This is 64 per cent above the UK average. Guildford and Canterbury came second and third, at £87.86 and £86.95 respectively. The cheapest city is Stoke, where landlords charge on average £41.90 a week in rent, according to the research by accommodationforstudents.com. But many of the other inexpensive locations are in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the analysis of rents for 52,000 properties in 73 UK cities and towns found. Rents are just £47.57 a week in Pontypridd, Mid-Glamorgan, £53 in Belfast and £55.06 in Dundee. Simon Thompson, director of accommodationforstudents.com, says: “Now that students are accumulating large borrowings to subsidise their study, the cost of accommodation has become a critical factor in their choice of university.”

Life amid the dreaming spires of Maastricht

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icycles clatter along cobbled streets, students drink coffee in sunny squares and a river runs through the city. But this is not Oxbridge or Durham. This is Maastricht University in the Netherlands — an English-speaking college offering degrees at half the price of English tuition fees. Close to the borders of Belgium and Germany, the university has students from all over Europe but only a handful from the UK, despite being a short journey from the Channel Tunnel. “We miss the British,” says Professor Rein de Wilde, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences. Maastricht is most famous for the 1992 treaty that created the European Union and gave birth to the euro. The treaty’s

association with greying politicians has tainted Maastricht since but this reputation masks a lively and picturesque city. The cosmopolitan university, housed in historic buildings, provides a highly credible alternative to higher education in Britain, professors and students say. Tens of thousands of good students will miss out on university in the UK this September because of the unprecedented number applying. Dr Jo Ritzen, president of Maastricht University, is encouraging British students to see this as an opportunity to study overseas instead. “The students will report back that this was the best thing that ever happened to them,” he says. “They will congratulate the UK government for limiting places and giving them the chance to study in Europe.” A few groundbreakers have already made their way across the Channel and are taking their degrees here. Alexandra

Chorlton, 19, had offers from three UK universities but chose Maastricht because it was the cheapest and the most international option. “I have never regretted the decision,” she says. “I knew that you could do an exchange in many more countries than you could in the UK.” Chorlton, like all her classmates, is going overseas this summer to a partner university. She will spend a semester studying in Perth, Australia. “You get an international experience for next to no money,” she adds. “If you’re coming from the UK you do have to be a bit brave to go abroad. Once you get here it’s really worth it.” So what’s the nightlife like? She grimaces — “Well, there are lots of house parties.” Hardcore clubbers would not be happy here as the scene is not equivalent to big cities in the UK. Most places close by 2am. The Netherlands is renowned for its

i The advantages 6 Tuition fees 1,620 (£1,400) — less than half the cost of British universities 6 Study groups of 12 6 All students spend a semester in a university abroad 6 International students can do paid work for up to ten hours a week 6 Easy access to Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris or London as well as Brussels, Liège, Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf

coffee-shop culture with a plentiful supply of legalised drugs. “When you arrive,” says Ariane Sketcher, 21,“a lot of students are like ‘wahey!’ but I don’t think about it any more.” After all the partying there is still work to be done. Students learn in small groups of 12. They discuss the week’s question before going away to read more widely and come back together to thrash out an answer. This problem-based learning technique, complemented by a weekly lecture, is best suited to arts subjects rather than degrees that leave little room for debate, such as maths. Dr Louis Boon, dean of University College Maastricht, says: “Group work ensures that students put in the effort. They get motivated to look into something because they realise they don’t know about it.” Joanna Sugden


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Student Guide 2009

Taking a break

timesonline.co.uk/clearing

Skilful use of a gap year BEN GURR

School-leavers are looking at smarter ways to spend time off, reports Alexandra Blair

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ith students facing the biggest squeeze on higher education in 20 years and only one in three likely to find a place through clearing, what better excuse to go on a gap year? By the end of June, in spite of the prospect of racking up about £20,000 in student debt, there were 52,204 more applications to university than last year. But with just 13,000 more full-time undergraduate places, more than 250,000 school-leavers are likely to take a gap year before climbing back on to the academic treadmill. As the recession bites, many leavers will find the Bank of Mum and Dad even less willing to lend them a few thousand pounds to lie on a beach in Thailand for six months, having helped to build a school hut in Mozambique. So increasingly the most popular option is the work placement, which allows school-leavers to garner valuable work experience ahead of college, as well as saving some money and spending some time on the beach. At Year in Industry, an education charity that matches up to 600 school-leavers to 200 British companies every year, the number of applications has risen by a fifth over last year. “Money is the main motivator and a wish to offset student debts. But they have also taken in the fact that a gap year is not actually 12 but 15 months long,” says the charity’s Penny Tysoe. “So if they can work and travel, they can have it all.” Year in Industry, which has been operating for 21 years, offers an average salary of between £10,000 and £14,000 for a placement of between nine months and a year. It helps successful applicants to get a foot in business, as well as meeting potential employers, and gives students a taste of responsibility before they start university. About a quarter of the companies go on to sponsor their student through college and employ them during the holidays. Of those accepted on to Year in Industry courses, 85 per cent gain a first or 2:1 degree and 75 per cent are employed straight after graduating. Tanya Edwards, 20, is going into her second year studying physics and astrophysics at Leeds University. She applied to the charity, largely because she wanted a constructive gap year that would give her an insight into business. She ended up working in the quality assurance department of Wrigley, the chewing gum manufacturer, and looking

for ways to reduce costs and raise productivity. During her placement, she devised a means of wasting fewer ingredients and recalibrating the machinery that is estimated to have saved the company more than £620,000 a year. “You are really thrown into the deep end and have to fend for yourself,” says Edwards. “The experience was invaluable. You get to know how industry works, you learn social skills on the job, how to interact with people and you get a lot more practical life experience.” For those who miss out on a Year in Industry placement or have set their hearts on banking or accountancy, projects such as Deloitte’s scholar scheme offer an alternative. This scheme also gives school-leavers the chance to gain work experience, travel and earn a wage. Deloitte has taken on 250 gap-year students in the past five years and this year plans to recruit an additional 45. The business advisory firm pays about £20,000 pro rata over seven months and applications are now open. In addition, the company donates £1,500 to fund the student’s gap year travel, offers a £1,500 annual bursary while they attend university, as well as four weeks’ paid holiday work. A large number of “scholars” end up working for Deloitte on graduating, but it is not compulsory. Such schemes are heaven-sent for

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I did my hard graft and then had three months of pure holiday

Try business before pleasure Case Study

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ory McGregor, above, a Deloitte scholar, says he fell into the business advisory company’s scheme by mistake, Alexandra Blair writes. “I didn’t really want to take a gap year because of my perception that it was just more work behind the bar and travel and would be difficult to get back into my studies,” he says. “But when Deloitte came and gave a presentation at our school, I signed up and forgot all about it, until they sent me a reminder three months later.” McGregor, 20, has always been interested in the business world, so

“it seemed like the natural thing to do,” he says. “As soon as I arrived I was treated like a graduate and assigned to Royal Sun Alliance and the Man Investment Group in the audit department. We had almost five weeks’ training and I was monitored at all times.” McGregor’s placement lasted from the end of August to the end of April. “With my salary and extra cash, I then headed to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand for three months and ended up going on a rugby tour in South America. I had done my hard graft so it was three months or so of pure holiday.” He will soon begin his second year at York University, studying accountancy, business finance and

management. “At uni I still pull pints behind the bar for £5.50 per hour, but I have managed to put aside the annual £1,500 bursary as a back-up fund. I pretty much used up my salary on travelling.” McGregor has been back to Deloitte twice since his scholarship began and during this eight-week stint he is working in the consultancy department with the London 2012 team. “Nobody has mocked me for working in my year off. Friends think it’s amazing that I got to work and travel and have help with paying my way through uni. “Most of my friends are really struggling to find jobs through the holidays, which should be one of the best times to start paying off debts.”

parents fearful for the safety of their young on gap-year adventures, as well as the danger of them wasting their precious time out from studying. But if their offspring are determined to go travelling rather than signing on for work experience in an office, there are other prospects. Platform2, for example, is a government-sponsored three-year programme aiming to involve 2,500 volunteers, which is open to all UK 18 to 25-yearolds who could not otherwise afford to volunteer overseas. For those whose parents are better off and can afford fees of up to £3,500 for three months’ travel, there are still the traditional routes of teaching in Nepal, working on an African game reserve or assisting a remote community in the Amazon jungle, which may be found under organisations such as the Year Out Group. Richard Oliver, chief executive of the group, says that subscribing to such organisations can be a good investment. “Those who go away teaching for three months or do conservation work come back different people. They are more mature, more focused and less likely to drop out of university,” he says. “If they have taught, for example, they will have learnt how to handle children, plan lessons, negotiate and fit into another culture. They will probably also have had adventures they can never tell their parents about, but that is all part of the experience.”


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Student Guide 2009

Mature students

timesonline.co.uk/clearing

Older and wiser but excited to finish what I started

BETHANY CLARKE

A decade after ill health forced her to give up her university course Diane Shipley is determined to try again but is wary of life as a mature student

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his September I will be moving away from home, getting my own place and starting university . . . again. I am anxious and excited about the friends I will make, where I will live and, oh yes, all the studying I will have to do . . . again. I first went through the excitement and terror of becoming a student in 1997. I was 18 years old, Tony Blair had just been elected Prime Minister and the country was full of hope. I wanted to go to university so my life could begin. I loved my English language course at Lancaster University, made fantastic friends and soaked myself in cheap vodka at least three nights a week. I also acquired my first serious boyfriend, undertook my first all-night essay writing session (of which there were many) and went to my first proper gig. Life was challenging, interesting and fun. Until it wasn’t. During my second year I became horribly ill and eventually had to drop out of my course. What was supposed to be a six-month break to get back on my feet turned into a decade of health problems and a life on disability benefits. My relationship fell apart, I lost friends and my twenties slipped away. Then, very slowly, I started to claw my way back to feeling better and began to work part-time as a journalist. As I wrote about other people who had fulfilled their dreams (from becoming published authors to discovering major scientific breakthroughs) I began to consider my own future. I found myself filling in a Ucas form again and broke down in tears when I was given a place at the University of Sheffield

to study English language and literature. Ten times more determined than I was in the late 1990s, I am ready to finish what I started. Everything is different this time. Not only am I older and fatter, I am more interested in going to lectures and joining societies than in getting drunk or meeting boys. I am worried about how I will get along with the 18 and 19-year-olds fresh from the sixth form or their gap years. I am worried that I will end up talking only to the teacher because I am too old and embarrassing for other students to bother with. I should probably swot up on the hot music and slang of the younger generation but I am just thankful that being 30 finally gives me an excuse not to be cool. I have already had a small taste of what being a mature student is like. During the Ucas application process I received leaflets from businesses that wanted to make my first year at university more enjoyable. These included an application form for an 18-25 railcard and advice on coping if I did not get the A-level grades I expected. And yet, as out of place as this made me feel, a quarter of people who apply through Ucas are aged over 21. That is a significant enough proportion, you would think, for us to receive some kind of specialist information. Sadly, no. I also have to confess that, at this stage of my life, I am grateful for the recession. Although I did not apply to uni because of the global downturn, it does make this a great time to duck out of the workforce for a while. Apparently other people are thinking the same thing, meaning that clearing could bring an influx of older students into my social circle. Fingers crossed. The world may not be as full of hope and optimism as in 1997 but, when it comes to my degree, I am still feeling positive.

Diane Shipley is keener to attend lectures the second time around and to join societies

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The recession makes this a great time to duck out of the workforce

i

higher education is a way of opening up new career options.

University is not just for 18-year-olds

6 About 40 per cent of higher education students do part-time or flexible courses. They are especially popular with people who have family and work commitments.

6 Sixty per cent of undergraduates in the UK are aged over 21. People decide to enter higher education at all times of life and for all sorts of reasons. For some it is a long-held personal ambition — perhaps one they have more time to achieve when they are older. For others

6 Foundation degrees and certificate or diploma courses are quicker to complete than traditional degrees and often can be topped up at a later date. On some courses you build up credits at your own pace until you have enough for a qualification.

6 Some mature students enter higher education with A levels or equivalent work-related qualifications, such as NVQs or a BTEC. 6 Traditional qualifications are not always necessary. Some institutions give credit for professional qualifications or relevant work experience. Others will not always ask for formal qualifications because the course itself includes units that are aimed at giving students the right study skills and “foundation” knowledge. Source: DirectGov website


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Student Guide 2009

After college

Graduate’s idea was not so bonkers after all

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A recruitment agency where companies can ‘try before they buy’? Andy Shovel, who graduated last year, explains the thinking behind his venture

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have to explain perpetually to acquaintances and strangers why deciding to start a recruitment business in the recession was not bonkers. The inevitable “so what do you do?” question from people is usually followed by a look of sympathy and a pitying “that’s nice”. People appear to be so accustomed to misery and doom that the idea of bucking the trend is, seemingly, madness. I graduated from the University of Nottingham a year ago and have since founded Recruitment Squared. Our mission is to make graduates more appealing in the recession and, eventually, out of it. Like most businesses, mine operates around the theory of supply and demand. There is an overwhelming supply of talented young people coming out of education. This is coupled with the demand from companies in all sectors to keep their cost-base as low as possible. We facilitate this need by letting firms “try before they buy” by taking on a free graduate intern for two months.

Recruitment Squared hires graduates to work on the internships and matches them up with companies. Clients pay a fee only if and when they hire the candidate on a full-time basis. I came up with this idea because I believe that the recruitment market should exude as much agility in these tough times as any other sector. In the car market, for example, the Government’s scrappage scheme shows a marketplace aligning itself with harsh reality. When the chips are down, compromise and flexibility should rule the day. At the same time, internships of late have gravitated towards the dangerous territory of exploitation, with no limit on the period of time graduates can be kept on in the hope of a job. When designing a model to propose to companies and graduates, I was mindful of this increasingly significant issue. So Recruitment Squared gives companies an intern for two months, after which time they are encouraged and expected to give him or her a full-time job and pay us a fee (though there is no formal

When the chips are down compromise and flexibility should rule the day

Andy Shovel says the blood, sweat and tears are now paying off

obligation on them to hire). This means we can identify time-wasting companies that may not have the intention or means to employ. Our internships are capped at two months because, while this period is long enough for both parties to gel, it is not long enough for the company to have enjoyed maximum value from the graduate since they will not have achieved their full potential. We insist that companies pay a small living allowance to interns to cover their expenses. Companies cannot have more than one free intern, unless they hired the previous one, or unless he or she left before two months and they need a replacement. The blood, sweat and tears seem to be paying off and businesses are buying into the prospect of risk-aversion and flexibility. The uptake from graduates has, unsurprisingly, been overwhelming.


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Student Guide 2009

Clearing

John O’Leary outlines some of the pros and cons of 40 UK universities likely to be offering the most places through clearing this year

timesonline.co.uk/clearing Bedfordshire Formed from the merger of Luton University and De Montfort’s Bedford campus, the university recently spent £60 million on the two main campuses, adding a media arts centre, a student union building, a 280-seat auditorium and a 500-bed accommodation block. Courses are mostly vocational. Bedfordshire offers the largest portfolio of two-year foundation degrees in the country. Nearly two thirds of entrants are mature students. Bolton Three quarters of the students come from northwest England but the rest are from 70 different countries. Last year the university opened a campus in Dubai, which has 150 students and will take 700 within five years. Engineering, architecture and social work are highly rated and design students work on live briefs for companies. Bolton does well in the national student satisfaction survey but the drop-out rate is almost 40 per cent — the highest in England. Bradford Bradford calls itself an “ecoversity” and addresses green issues in its curriculum. It opens a sustainable student village next year as part of a £70 million modernisation. Bradford is Britain’s cheapest student city and has 1,700 places in self-catering halls. The university achieves one of the best rates of graduate employment, possibly because many courses are vocational. Nursing, pharmacy and other health studies did well in teaching assessments. Good provision for the disabled means that they account for 6 per cent of students. Brighton It is one of the first new universities to be awarded a medical school, run jointly with Sussex University. This trains 128 doctors a year and has provided a new base for applied social science subjects such as criminology. It was one of the top new universities in the latest research assessment exercise. Art and design, business management, sports studies and engineering did well. Facilities include a flight simulator and a newsroom for the university’s sports journalists. Brunel A £250 million programme to upgrade and centralise teaching, research and sporting facilities was recently completed on the main Uxbridge campus. It has a new indoor athletics centre and accommodation complex. About a third of undergraduates take four-year sandwich degrees with work placements but there has been significant growth in courses specialising in new technologies. They include aviation engineering and pilot studies, motorsport engineering, screenwriting and games design. The university has won an award for its provision for disabled students.

Buckinghamshire New Redevelopment will allow most students to be based at the main campus in High Wycombe. The new Gateway Building will include a sports hall, gym, treatment rooms and sports laboratory. Sport is an important part of life at the new university, which sponsors the London Wasps rugby union team. One disappointment has been consistently low scores in the National Student Survey. Central Lancashire (UCLan) A total of £60 million has been spent on the modern campus in the centre of Preston. An extended and refurbished student union boasts one of the largest student venues in the country. Scores in the National Student Survey have been steady, with sports science and tourism, transport and travel doing particularly well last year. The social scene does not

compare with Manchester or Liverpool, which are close, but the cost of living is low. Rents are among the lowest in Britain. City University London It markets itself as the “international university in the heart of London” and its location in fashionable Islington is a big asset. The university has consistently good graduate employment figures. It has struggled , however, to make an impression in the National Student Survey, although 80 per cent of undergraduates were satisfied overall. Coventry Coventry is investing £160 million over ten years in its 33-acre campus close to the city centre, much of it on student facilities. The main buildings open out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral . Student residences are within easy walking

Bioprocess research at Brunel University, which has seen a significant growth in courses specialising in new technologies

distance of the campus and centre of the city, which enjoys a relatively low cost of living. The university focuses on employment, which is reflected in a predominantly vocational curriculum. Cumbria The main base remains in Lancaster, a ten-minute walk from the town centre. It has a modern library and a £2.5 million sports complex, gymnastics centre and fitness centre. The Ambleside campus has an outdoor studies centre, and another site, a mile outside Penrith, caters mainly for agriculture and forestry. Courses include outdoor education and leadership, geography, business, tourism, sport and computing. The creative arts are a growth area. They are concentrated in Carlisle, where two campuses share an innovative multimedia learning resource centre .


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De Montfort The university is now concentrating its efforts on two campuses in Leicester after departing Milton Keynes, Lincoln and Bedford following the relocation of health and life sciences to its headquarters. It has set up an employment agency to help graduates to find careers. Its £35 million building for business and law students, due to open next month, has a remodelled 24-hour library. Recent additions include a BSc in green energy technology and one in public community health. Applications rose by more than 14 per cent at the start of 2009. East London The original campus in Stratford is being upgraded with a new library and learning centre, student residences and other facilities. It was among the bottom ten in the national student survey in 2008. Its £40 million student village project provided another 800 beds in 2007 and student numbers have increased from 12,000 to 20,000, since 2001. Many of its degrees are vocational. It has pioneered a work-based learning initiative, offering accredited placements with local employers. It provides accommodation for all first-year students.

Leeds Metropolitan Leeds Met is by far the cheapest university at which to take a full-time degree this year but fees are likely to rise for 2010-11. Two fifths of students come from the Yorkshire and Humberside region, and more than half are over 21 on entry. Outstanding sports facilities led the university to be named a UK Centre for Coaching Excellence. Leeds Met was among the bottom group in last year’s national student survey but students are included on the committees that design and manage courses.

Essex The university has a reputation for research in social sciences. It was in the top 20 in the national student survey last year. A quarter of its 9,000 full-time students are postgraduates, many of them mature and overseas students. The newly formed Essex Business School is ranked second in the UK for accounting and finance. In each of the four faculties, students follow a common first year before specialising. A third campus opened in Southend in 2007, offering business, health education and arts courses.

Lincoln The opening of a purpose-built campus alongside a marina in the centre of Lincoln made a dramatic change. There are new science laboratories, sports facilities, an architecture school, a library and a student union and entertainment venue in a converted railway engine shed. The latest developments are a performing arts centre and a regional facility for excellence in sport, coaching and exercise science. Results in the national student survey have improved. The city is adapting to its new student population with the opening of more bars and clubs.

Glamorgan Offering sports bursaries for students with international potential, the university is one of six Centres of Cricketing Excellence. Sport- related courses include football and rugby coaching. Glamorgan attracted the biggest rise in applications in Wales at the start of this year. A new £35 million campus was opened in the centre of Cardiff in 2007, following a merger with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The business school is the largest in Wales and students in the school registered more than 80 per cent satisfaction. Glasgow Caledonian The university has spent more than £70 million upgrading most of its buildings. The health building brings together teaching and research facilities and includes a virtual hospital, where students can perfect their clinical skills. The projected drop-out rate has come down and the university introduced measures to improve retention. It has pioneered subjects such as entrepreneurial studies and risk, and offers specialist degrees such as tourism management, fashion marketing, leisure management and consumer protection. Glyndwr University Nearly a third of students are from overseas. Sports science produced the most satisfied students in the national student survey in 2008 but the university still came in the bottom 20. Fewer than half the undergraduates are recent school-leavers. Among courses are a foundation degree in floristry and degrees in mobile computing and therapeutic childcare. Bursaries are available to all UK students, depending on family income, and there are scholarships for those with more than 300 Ucas points.

Kingston Having established itself as one of the fastest-growing new universities, with more than 22,000 students, Kingston is developing a learning environment to match. Results in the national student survey have improved, after disruptive building work depressed initial satisfaction levels. The university markets itself as in "lively, leafy London", making a virtue of its suburban location as well as its proximity to the bright lights. Students can take advantage of 24-hour opening in some of the main learning resources centres. Around a quarter of Kingston’s places go to mature students.

Liverpool John Moores LJMU is focusing on giving graduates the skills to succeed in the employment market. Work-related learning is included in every degree. Many lectures have been replaced by computer-based teaching, freeing academic staff for face-to-face tutorials. The university is now one of Britain's biggest. A number of residential projects have allowed it to guarantee accommodation for young entrants, including those who enter through clearing.

Greenwich Christopher Wren’s Royal Naval College buildings provide an impressive campus. New student accommodation opened in 2008. A £14 million sports and teaching centre with a new gym opened in 2006. The Avery Hill television studio has also been refurbished. Results in the national student survey have improved dramatically in the past two years. The downside is a projected drop-out rate of more than 20 per cent. Greenwich is one of few universities to charge top-up tuition fees of less than the maximum £3,225 a year. Keele Keele has set itself the goal of becoming the “ultimate 21st-century campus university” and is investing more than £70 million to provide new facilities. Students have a choice of more than 500 degree courses. Most provide the

opportunity of a semester abroad. Keele has a good record in the national student survey. The attractive 617-acre campus is the largest in England. Nearly 70 per cent of undergraduates live on campus. The university’s sports facilities include a new all-weather pitch, and the leisure centre has recently refurbished its fitness suite. Kent Styling itself “the UK’s European university”, Kent gives many undergraduates the option of a year spent elsewhere in Europe or in the United States. The campus is set in 300 acres of parkland overlooking Canterbury. The student centre has a nightclub that attracts big-name bands, as well as a theatre, cinema and bars. Graduates fare well in the employment market. It is also in the top ten for student satisfaction. Accommodation is provided for all first-years.

Greenwich University boasts an impressive campus at the Royal Naval College, designed by Christopher Wren

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London South Bank The university’s mission statement emphasises wealth creation and the labour market. It was in the top ten in the last survey of graduate starting salaries. More than 70 per cent of students are from the capital, many from a wide range of ethnic minorities. More than a third of the 17,000 students are part-time and half are on sandwich courses. The proportion of mature entrants is among the highest in Britain, and the university offers a summer school for local people to upgrade qualifications. Diploma and degree courses run in parallel so that students can move up or down. Middlesex A £100-million building programme will concentrate the university on three sites in North London. A recent revival in recruitment among home students has brought the student population to 22,000 and there was an 8.5 per cent increase in applications at the start of this year . Overseas recruitment is strong and the university’s strengths are in business, computing and the arts. It has opened its own campus in Dubai. There are two scholarships of £30,000 for potential Olympic champions at the 2012 Games.


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Napier The university is in the middle of a £100 million redevelopment programme. Demand for places has remained buoyant at a time when it has faltered elsewhere in Scotland. Napier has two new libraries, a purpose-built music centre and Scotland’s biggest business school. The university uses its students to mentor newcomers and offers pre-term introductions to staff, as well as summer top-up courses. Students are taught employability skills and personal development. Newport Students have been attracted by a range of new courses at Newport in areas such as creative sound and music, cinema studies and scriptwriting and internet technologies. A futuristic riverside campus has begun to take shape. There are currently two campuses, with free buses linking the sites, which are officially among the safest in Britain. A well-equipped sports centre is another bonus. However, Newport has slipped down the national student satisfaction survey table and was close to the bottom last year. The city has plenty of clubs and entertainment venues but those in search of serious clubbing or culture gravitate to nearby Cardiff. Northampton Northampton registered good results in the National Student Survey, finishing in the top half of the table last year. The university has two sites: an 80-acre campus on the edge of Northampton and the smaller, more central Avenue campus. Both have new halls of residence. The university has added a £100,000 gym to its sports facilities. Northampton has a number of student-oriented bars but the union bars are the hub of the social scene. Nottingham Trent Consistently among the leading new universities in The Times League Table, Nottingham Trent has demonstrated high quality in an unusually wide range of disciplines and has one of the best employment records. The extensive main city site incorporates a mix of Victorian and modern buildings. The Brackenhurst campus, devoted to animal, rural and environmental studies includes an equestrian centre. Both campuses have access to the city’s lively cultural and clubbing scene and a late-night bus service links the main campuses. Portsmouth Portsmouth has always been among the leaders of its generation of universities, but a wider portfolio of courses, a modernised campus and new facilities in the city are proving a powerful draw. Portsmouth has one of the best records of the new universities in the National Student Survey and graduate employment is healthy. The city has a vibrant student pub and club scene to supplement a popular student union. The cost of living is not as high as at many southern universities and the sea is close at hand. Reading Reading is ranked among the top 200 universities in the world and has a large number of international students, helping to add vibrancy. The social scene is a big plus. The student union has been voted among the best in Britain and, with London near by, there is always plenty to do. The National Student Survey also reflects the popularity of the institution with 90 per cent approval among final-year undergraduates in 2008. Archaeology achieved 100 per cent satisfaction, with architecture, building, business studies, computer science, history and teacher training doing well.

Robert Gordon Robert Gordon has been the top new university in The Times league table for the past two years. It has two sites in Aberdeen and an attractive field study centre at Cromarty in the Highlands. The university has spent £100 million on its buildings and facilities. Aberdeen is a long way for English students but transport links are excellent. A £12 million sports and leisure centre incorporates a 25m swimming pool, three gyms, a climbing wall and bouldering room, a café bar, three exercise studios and a large sports hall.

Southampton Solent There is a strong representation of non-traditional disciplines, such as yacht and powercraft design, computer and video games, and comedy writing and performance. The main campus is in the city centre . Recent investment has included a new Centre for Professional Development in Broadcasting and Multimedia Production, which includes an online editing suite, digital television studio and gallery. Students like being close to the city’s growing complement of bars and nightclubs.

Royal Holloway, University of London As the University of London’s “campus in the country”, Royal Holloway occupies 135 acres of woodland between Windsor Castle and Heathrow. The 600-bed Founder’s Building, modelled on a French chateau, is one of Britain’s most remarkable university buildings. The college has also achieved consistently good results in the National Student Survey. More than 2,900 students are in halls of residence. Its location 35 minutes from the centre of London by rail means that the West End is close for those determined to seek the high life. Sports facilities are good.

Staffordshire The university is based on two main sites, in Stoke and 16 miles away in Stafford. Both have modern halls of residence, sports centres and lively student union venues. There has been significant investment at the Stafford campus, which features the Octagon Centre, in which lecture theatres, offices and walkways surround one of the largest university computing facilities in Europe. Stoke is not the liveliest city of its size but the University Quarter project should attract more social facilities to the area. There is a new £1.4 million sports centre and all-weather pitches.

Sheffield Hallam The university has been undergoing a physical transformation designed to alter its image and cater for more students . There are two campuses, one in the heart of the city centre and the other not far away in a leafy inner suburb. Sheffield Hallam is now one of the largest of the new universities with more than 30,000 students. Sports facilities are supplemented by those provided by the city for the World Student Games. The impressive swimming complex, for example, is on the university’s doorstep.

Strathclyde Strathclyde aims to offer courses that are both innovative and relevant to industry and commerce. The main John Anderson campus is in the centre of Glasgow. Apart from the Edwardian headquarters, the buildings are mostly modern. The 67-acre parkland site of its second campus houses the faculty of education. Strathclyde has a student village on the main campus, complete with a pub. More than 1,400 students live on campus, all with network access, and another 500 are near by. The ten-floor union building attracts students from all over Glasgow.

Hannah Miley, the record-breaking swimmer, in the 25m pool that is part of Robert Gordon University’s £12 million sports and leisure centre

Sunderland A £75 million investment will provide new sports and social space, an hotel and conference facility. The university’s faculty of applied sciences has 3,000 students and is said to be one of the largest in the UK . Mature students without A levels are offered places, as long as they reach the required levels of literacy, numeracy and other basic skills. There are also special modules to help people with dyslexia. Thames Valley Two thirds of the university’s 33,000 students are part-timers, spread across its three campuses in Reading, Slough and Ealing. Courses are concentrated in three faculties — arts, professional studies and health and human sciences. Many further education programmes are being extended into degrees. The London College of Music, which is part of the university, has some of the longest established music technology courses in the country. Only business courses achieved more than 85 per cent satisfaction in the 2008 National Student Survey.

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Westminster The university was rated top in the UK for media studies in last year’s Research Assessment Exercise. A £130 million ten-year modernisation plan includes the transformation of the former Harrow College, North London, and the redevelopment of the New Cavendish Street site. The university has won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for teaching its courses in nine overseas countries. It also says it offers the largest number of language courses of any British university. The scholarship scheme awards £4,000 a year in tuition fees and cash to students with three As at A level, while three Bs secures £2,000 a year. A new £6 million halls block in Harrow opened last year.



The Times Clearing Supplement 2009