A survey, carried out by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, has questioned more than 2,500 pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 about their aspirations for higher education.
More than three-quarters (77 per cent) said that they were likely to go to university, with girls being slightly more likely to agree (79 per cent to 75 per cent).
Overall the proportion is rising: in 2003, 71 per cent of teenagers told the Sutton Trust that they wanted to go to university.
Thirty years of debt
But of those teenagers who said that they were likely to go on to higher education, almost half (47 per cent) added that they were worried about its cost.
The biggest concern was the annual tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. However, pupils were also worried about being saddled with student loan repayments stretching over 30 years.
Others were worried about the cost of living. And one in 20 said that they were most concerned about the loss of earnings resulting from three years as a student.
Meanwhile, 11 per cent of pupils polled said that they were unlikely to go on to university – the remaining 12 per cent were either uncertain or did not state a preference. The majority of these teenagers (68 per cent) said that they simply disliked academic learning.
Others said that they would prefer to do something more practical once they had left school, or that they did not like the idea of university.
'People like us'
Almost a third (31 per cent) of those who did not want to go on to higher education gave social or cultural reasons, including the fact that their parents did not go to university, and that they thought that "people like us" were not expected to attend.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that previous research has shown that these pupils are disproportionately likely to come from disadvantaged households.
"There is still a minority who think that university isn’t for them, or that they aren’t clever enough to go," he said. "The axing of maintenance grants loads up poorer students with even more debt on top of the current debt levels.
"Even if it does not deter poorer students from applying, the debt levels they incur are storing up major problems for them in the future."
A separate survey by university admissions service Ucas recently found that children who know at the age of 10 that they want to go to on to higher education are twice as likely to attend a selective university than those who decide at age 16.