Today it is no secret that a university education comes at a significant cost for most people across the UK. The cost of living, accommodation and all the social fun that defines the student experience is an expensive lifestyle to maintain. Most people would go to their overdraft, their parents or a job for some extra means of getting by. But if you were given the opportunity to pay off your students debts through gambling on your degree, would you take it?
Ladbrokes made headlines last month when they announced they were allowing students from 20 universities across the UK to bet on the outcome of their degree. Naturally, concerns have been raised that placing education on a gambling site encourages irresponsible behaviour and that students will easily fall victim to further debt. However, as this is a trial introduction by Ladbrokes, there remain controls in place that prevent too much being gained or lost. For example, a maximum stake of £10 and maximum win of £1,000 already make the prospects of winning to pay back student loans seem less appealing.
When I click on the Ladbrokes page, I am faced with three options. First, I have to select my institution and Glasgow is one of the 20 universities you can bet on. Then, I have to enter my course – which is not listed – so I choose the closest one, History & Philosophy. Finally, I am asked to enter three of my A-Level results and the odds are calculated on the basis of this information. If, like me, your degree course is not listed then perhaps you should count yourself lucky and free from ever being tempted. Based on the information I entered the maximum return I could have received would be £45 for a 3rd degree. This does nothing to satisfy my dream of clearing my loan or for raising my academic ambition.
Many students seem disgusted at the principle and what it infers about the process of working towards a degree. Second year student Martina Guzauskaite said: “It’s just ridiculous! Graduating with a good degree doesn’t depend on luck and it certainly cannot be calculated! You need to work hard to get a good degree. Education and gambling do not go together.”
Personally, even if my winnings were higher and I could pay off my debt, I am not someone who could really gamble on this. This is because, being naturally indecisive, it would take me a ridiculously long period of time to choose my odds and, by which time, I probably could have used the time more productively by studying for my degree. Equally, I am more reluctant to bet because the last time I almost did so was when my flatmate nearly convinced me to bet on who the new Pope would be. She claimed she had secret inside information and – lo and behold – we got it wrong. Therefore, a combination of indecisiveness and not having the best luck would rule me out.
The idea for the degree betting venture on Ladbrokes was inspired by a parent who decided to bet on his daughter getting a 1st. Maybe this scheme attracts parents more than it does students. If most of us were being honest with ourselves, we would admit that parents are often the ones to bear our financial burdens. Therefore, what better way to free themselves of our debts than by winning money gambling on our academic achievements or failures!