Just 28 per cent of students from low-income backgrounds said they had always known they would consider university compared to almost half (47 per cent) of wealthier students, a new poll has found.
As thousands prepare to receive their A-level results this week, education charity Teach First has called on universities to use their funding to engage young people about higher education opportunities from when they are in primary school.
A ComRes survey, commissioned by Teach First, has revealed that wealthier students are more likely to take part in non-academic extracurricular activities to support their applications – and 23 per cent begin planning their application during GCSEs, compared to 13 per cent of poorer students.
Meanwhile, two-fifths of students said they received little support from their school in planning their application. Of more than 1,000 undergraduates surveyed, 30 per cent found applying to university difficult and 38 per cent felt intimidated when applying for university.
The charity recommends that widening participation work should begin at primary school, with a particular increase around age 14, to encourage equal access to universities.
Ndidi Okezie, executive director of delivery at Teach First, said:“While the government has laudable aims, progress in getting more pupils from low income backgrounds to university will continue to stall unless there are major changes to our approach."
She added: “Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds still face three major hurdles to reach higher education: they continue to lag behind their wealthier peers in attainment, they lack awareness of the opportunities presented by university and, as our findings today show, they too often fail to receive quality assistance that can turn aspiration into reality.”
Last month, a Ucas survey found that children who know by age of 10 that they want to study for a degree are "twice as likely" to get into a selective university.
Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive, said: “This Teach First research echoes UCAS findings about stirring the ambitions of young people from an earlier age. Students who have a more personal stake in doing well at GCSE will achieve higher grades and keep all their options open for progression thereafter.”