Student debt is parents' top concern about their children going to university, new research has found.
The study by the LKMco thinktank and King’s College London also highlighted a patchy approach to parental engagement among the UK’s top universities, with many institutions not providing a bespoke programme for engaging parents.
LKMco and King’s commissioned YouGov to carry out a nationally representative survey of 980 parents on their attitudes to their child attending university.
The survey found that financial concerns topped parents’ concerns about their child going to university, with the “amount of debt” that their child would accrue coming out as the number one worry.
This was cited as the top concern by 36 per cent of parents, with 65 per cent putting it within their top three concerns.
The second biggest worry was “future employment prospects”, which was identified as the top concern by 16 per cent and as a top three concern by 53 per cent. This was followed by university “living costs”, which was identified as the number one concern by 10 per cent of parents, and as a top three concern by 38 per cent.
Half of parents in the survey (51 per cent) said they wanted their child to go to university, with parents in the higher ABC1 social grades significantly more likely to want this than those in the C2DE social grades (55 per cent compared with 46 per cent).
However, the survey found that the majority of parents (71 per cent) from all social grade groups believe it is possible for anyone to go to university.
Only a quarter of parents (25 per cent) wanted their children to "go to a top university" if they did follow this route, although parents from higher social grade groups were significantly more likely to want this (30 per cent in ABC1 groups, compared with 18 per cent in C2DE groups).
The study also looked at top universities' approach to engaging parents in terms of widening participation, with Freedom of Information requests sent to the UK’s 30 top-tariff universities.
The requests found that the majority of universities are engaging parents, although five institutions said they did not.
However, there was significant variation in the approaches adopted by universities. The majority (77 per cent) of outreach activities that included an element of parental engagement were additions to programmes or events that were designed for pupils.
Only a fifth of the activities reported (22 per cent) had a core offer that was specifically designed for parents or families and not an adjunct to a student-focused programme.