Record numbers of state school pupils are aspiring to go to university despite reports of poorer graduate job prospects because of the recession, a survey commissioned by the Sutton Trust has revealed.
In a poll of almost 2,500 11 to 16-year-olds, 77 per cent said they were fairly likely or very likely to go to university. The figure is up from 73 per cent last year and is the highest since the annual poll was started seven years ago.
But the results come as universities are to be hit by cuts to teaching budgets and a fall of 20,000 funded places in 2010-11.
Research last week among 100 leading employers showed a fall in graduate vacancies of 13.5 per cent compared with last year. Only the armed forces reported a significant increase in jobs, up by 11 per cent.
Although almost eight out of 10 pupils now aspire to go to university, less than half that number currently enter higher education, the Sutton Trust said.
The charity, which supports efforts to improve social mobility, also highlights a gap between the socio-economic background of pupils and their desire to go to university. Seventy-nine per cent of children from working households aspire to university compared with 66 per cent from homes where no parent works.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "Sadly, these findings confirm that it continues to be non-privileged youngsters who are least likely to progress, so efforts to raise the aspirations and achievement of bright students from poorer homes must continue."
The trust funds summer schools at a number of leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, to give about 850 Year 12 pupils from non-privileged backgrounds an insight into university life and to encourage them to apply.