Fewer young people feel likely to enter higher education

Results from our latest survey for the Sutton Trust shows an ongoing fall in the proportion of young people who feel likely to go into higher education.

Fewer young people feel likely to enter higher education

The author(s)

  • Jane Stevens Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Luke Daxon Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Results from the annual Ipsos MORI Young People Omnibus shows an ongoing fall in the proportion of young people aged 11-16 who feel likely to go into higher education.

The survey was conducted among a sample of 2,612 pupils in secondary schools in England and Wales on behalf of the Sutton Trust; it indicates that three in four (74%) feel very or fairly likely to enter higher education. This is the lowest proportion that Ipsos MORI has recorded through this survey since 2009 (when it was 73%) and represents a significant decline since the high-point recorded in 2013 (81%). The proportion who say they feel unlikely to enter higher education has also gone up (14% this year, compared with 11% in 2016 and eight per cent in 2012).

Among those who feel unlikely to enter higher education, the most common reasons are that they prefer to do something practical rather than studying (54%), want to start earning money as soon as possible (51%) do not enjoy learning (36%) and do not feel clever enough (35%). These figures have generally remained consistent compared with last year, although a greater proportion now say they do not enjoy learning (up from 23% in 2016).

Meanwhile, those who do feel likely to enter higher education are increasingly concerned about the financial undertaking involved. The proportion who felt very or fairly worried about the cost of higher education declined steadily between 2014 and 2016 (from 51% down to 47%). However, this figure has gone back up to 51%.

A parallel version of the survey in Scotland shows that a lower proportion of young people who feel likely to enter higher education are also worried about the cost (40% compared with 51% in England and Wales). This may well reflect the absence of tuition fees for young people in Scotland, although the proportion who are worried is still substantial.

Of those young people who feel likely to enter higher education and also feel worried about the cost of it, they are most often concerned about tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year (46%). This is followed by repaying student loans for potentially up to 30 years (18%) and the cost of living as a student (16%).

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,612 school children aged 11-16 in schools in England and Wales. Pupils were selected from a random sample of schools, and self-completion questionnaires were completed at school between 6th February and 17th May 2017. Data are weighted by school year, sex and region to match the profile of school children across England and Wales. The same methodology has been used to conduct this research with 11-16 year olds in England and Wales each year since 2003. The numbers of 11-16 year olds interviewed in the quoted years are as follows: 2016 (2,555), 2013 (2,595) 2009 (2,447) and 2008 (2,387).

A separate survey was conducted with a sample of 269 young people (aged 11 – 16) conducted in Scotland this year. This was done with the same questionnaire and survey methodology.

The author(s)

  • Jane Stevens Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Luke Daxon Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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