The proportion of young people who think it’s important to go to university has hit a six-year low, according to a new poll.
In 2013, 86 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds surveyed by the social mobility charity the Sutton Trust thought it was important to go to university to do well – this year, those agreeing had fallen to 75 per cent.
The survey results were published as students pick up their A-level results today and will learn whether or not they have got into the university course they wanted.
The poll shows that secondary school pupils are less optimistic about their chances of getting into university than in the past – with 32 per cent saying that they were “very likely” to go to university when they were old enough, compared with a high of 41 per cent in 2009. A further 45 per cent said it was “fairly likely” that they would do so.
And disadvantaged pupils are even less likely to believe they will go into higher education. Just 67 per cent of disadvantaged pupils believed they would go on to university, compared with 79 per cent of their more affluent peers.
“It’s no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people who think it’s important to go into higher education,” said Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust. “Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age. And in a number of cases, they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.”
The cost of university
The survey shows that nearly half (46 per cent) of young people who are likely to go to university are worried about the cost of higher education.
And of those who said they were unlikely to go into higher education, the most common reason cited – by 58 per cent – was that they didn’t want to continue studying. Financial reasons, such as worry about getting into debt, were given by 44 per cent.
The Sutton Trust is calling on the government to restore maintenance grants and review the case for means-testing tuition fees, to ensure that the cost of going to university is not a barrier to young people.
The charity is also calling for more degree-level apprenticeships, which would provide an alternative to higher education.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want all young people to go as far as their talents take them, regardless of where they are from, so are pleased that disadvantaged 18-year-olds are 50 per cent more likely to enter full-time university in 2017 compared with 2009.
“But university isn't for everyone and we don’t want one route to a career to be considered better than any other. That is why we are transforming technical education in this country to put it on a par with our amazing academic system.
“This includes introducing new T levels from September 2020 – high-quality, technical alternatives to A levels – and working with employers to create more high-quality apprenticeships so our workforce is fit for the future and more people can gain the skills they need to secure rewarding jobs. Degree apprenticeships are an important part of this and we already have with 101 universities, including several Russell Group institutions, signed up to offer these apprenticeships in fields ranging from aerospace engineering to policing."