The Return of the Gap Year

When the tuition fee increase took effect in 2012, many suggested it would be the end of ‘The Gap Year’. With many students not taking one the year before (and why would they when it would involve paying three times the fees?) travel companies had reduced the number of package gap years on offer, and generally students were discouraged from taking them on the simple principle that they needed as many years of their working life as possible to make university worth it.

But, despite a drop in the number of students taking gap years in 2011 and 2012, the number from 2013 took a bounce back, and the current numbers suggest that for summer 2014 the number of students taking a gap year will return to it’s pre-fees increase level.

It’s easy to understand when you think about it, more students are undecided over whether university is right for them, they take a year out to make sure they’re on the right path - many now choose to get a year in industry, even at a low level, this not only ensure that they’ve got a real passion for their subject but often will open doors with regards to universities they wouldn’t get into on grades alone. Whether this can be considered a traditional ‘gap yah’ spent traveling around the jungles of South America or school building in Africa is a question for debate, but it certainly suggests a shift in how gap years are perceived.

Another path taken is a year traveling, like so many American students for years before, students are now traveling round Europe – and the ever more popular Asia-Pacific area in ever greater numbers, this is seen as a last blast of freedom as so many will go straight into long hour graduate programs once they finish their degree.

The benefits of a gap year may appear clear, but some students are now finding it a different experience, volunteering traveling is now more expensive than ever as specialist companies offering packages to boost your CV become a big player in an already expensive market, with the job market now even more competitive, a gap year which was spent traveling for a month followed by a year of not much is now a red flag during recruitment processes. The rise of the post uni gap year between degree and work, or post-grad, is becoming the next big thing and more and more simply can’t afford to spend their savings on a gap year when the cost of living at university is so expensive. Whatever the future holds for the ‘gap yar’ it’ll most likely look very different to what it once was.