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Feeling The Crunch

Credit crunch, financial crisis, liquidity crisis, the apocalypse; however you describe it, it’s hitting the headlines and dominating just about every political debate around the world. The numbers alone are terrifying. At the time of going to press, the US stock market had lost 20% of its value in two weeks and the FTSE was down 2,000 points from its peak. The US government had launched a $700billion rescue package and the UK had pumped billions of pounds into the banking sector. 159,000 Americans lost their jobs in September. A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there; no matter how you add it up, this is starting to look like real money.

But what does this mean for the average Nottingham student? Surely the crisis is only really an issue for Wall Street bankers and the odd saver with dodgy Icelandic banks? Perhaps now is one of the best times in history to be a student. We don’t have mortgages to worry about or City jobs to hold onto. Neither do we have savings locked up in banks teetering on the edge. Instead, we have Ocean Fridays and lectures to get to. When we eventually turn our minds towards getting a job we’ll do what everyone did last year: if there’s nothing that takes our fancy now, a gap year beckons. Maybe we’ll spend some time in Thailand and Cambodia. Full moon party in Koh Phangan anyone? Anyway, we don’t need to think about that yet. We have much more important things to consider, like what we’re going to dress up as for 7-legged. We can just wait out this crisis for a year or so and then ride the recovery, delighted that house prices crashed just before we started wanting to buy.

However, the reality is slightly more sinister. We may all like to pretend that life after uni is a million miles away but we’re secretly terrified. We can feel the breath of harsh reality on our necks. Parents ask us about our future plans; we notice that the final day of interest free overdrafts is getting closer; some mental arithmetic gives us the total amount we owe to credit card companies, banks and the Student Loan Company. The total is a pretty scary prospect.

In order to remedy this, many of us (third years in particular) are hastily applying for jobs and internships. This is carried out in secret, desperate to hide our eager beaver desperation from our friends. The trouble is, we’re finding it significantly harder than in years past. With the City apparently going up in flames, the traditional refuge of graduates looks a lot less appealing than at the height of the boom. At the same time, the grapevine yields tales of the graduate who thought she had landed a plum job at a major firm only to be told that the firm didn’t exist any more just weeks before she was due to start. But surely that’s just an issue for the geeks and wide-boys charting careers in investment banks and hedge funds? Not so: as opportunities in the City dry up, pressure builds up in the rest of the job market. Moreover, the feared recession will bite into everything from architecture to environmental technology. If the current situation continues, no country or industry will be spared from what is tantamount to a global financial heart attack. Gone are the days when a graduate with a solid 2:1 could expect to eventually stumble into a job like they used to stumble from Ocean to the burger van.

So what can be done? As we’re not blessed with the ability to buy our own bank, we have to find some other way to ride out the storm. Many people are turning to post-graduate study as a way of delaying the inevitable. With the job market looking sketchy, a Masters looks like a great way to “differentiate yourself” (for the parents), or to “stick your head in the sand, have a couple more years of fun and hope the problem solves itself” (for everyone else). But with an army of ex-City workers beating down the doors of Law and Business schools, how can we be sure we’ll get in? These questions this writer cannot answer. Perhaps the only thing we can do is hope, file applications, pray a little bit, then work on sourcing our Isis tickets.

James Torrance

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