Almost eight out of 10 teenagers who intended to go university will change their plans because of the hike in tuition fees, a poll has revealed.
Some 15 per cent of pupils in Years 10, 11 and 12 have already ditched ambitions to study at university because of the planned increase in fees, which will rise from pound;3,375 to a maximum of pound;9,000 per year from next year.
Almost one in five of the pupils questioned by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said they would choose universities that do not charge maximum fees, and a further 17 per cent said they were considering studying at further education colleges or attending university abroad.
The NFER, which surveyed 433 secondary-school pupils in England who had been planning to go to university, found students from poorer homes were more likely to be put off by the fee increase. Forty-three per cent of those from affluent backgrounds said they would not change their plans, compared with 21 per cent of pupils overall.
The report comes as students rush to get into universities this year to avoid the fee hike. Last Thursday, the website of admissions service Ucas collapsed after students flocked to the site to see if they had been accepted to their chosen course.
Just 29,409 courses were available when the clearing process opened last Thursday, down from 33,105 last year. Ucas said just 6,000 students deferred a firm offer at university this year, compared with 20,000 last year.
The fee hike has provoked a great deal of criticism since it was proposed last year and prompted demonstrations in London. A higher than expected number of universities have opted to charge maximum fees.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the results of the study were not surprising.
"I'm concerned that the rise in fees will be a deterrent," he said. "Students now have only got one chance at their course. In the past students could switch courses (if they weren't happy). This will mean more people could drop out."
Mick Green, head of George Salter Collegiate Academy in West Bromwich, said the increase would "put off" students no matter what their background.
"There ought to be a more gradual increase. Starting work with that kind of debt is frightening," he said.
Maria Charles, project director for NFER's omnibus surveys, said that until applications for September 2012 are finalised it would be hard to know the real impact of the rise on young people's choices.
"However, it seems likely that fewer young people will apply for university and that the pattern of applications will change," she added.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills statement said: "No one should be put off going to university for financial reasons. Next year the majority of students will not pay pound;9,000 for their tuition and first-time undergraduates will not have to pay upfront costs."
15% of teenagers have abandoned plans to go to university.
17% are considering FE colleges or attending university abroad.
19% will only apply to cheaper universities.
26% will only apply to local universities so they can live at home.
21% will not change their plans.
Original headline: Tuition fee hike triggers university rethink