Importance of university falling for young people

Results from our latest survey on behalf of the Sutton Trust show that the proportion of young people who think it’s important to go to university to do well and get on in life has fallen steadily over the past six years.

The author(s)

  • David Swordy Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Emily Mason Public Affairs
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Three-quarters (75%) of the 2,381 11-16 year olds surveyed thought that it’s important for people to go to university to do well and get on in life. This is down from a high of 86% in 2013. However, young people continue to feel that gaining qualifications is important for people to get on in life (94%).  Other factors seen as important for getting on in life included being confident (93%) and knowing the right people (77%).  Family background (55%) and being lucky (29%) were seen as less important.

However, just over three-quarters (77%) say they are likely to go into higher education when they are old enough. Thirty-two percent said they were ‘very likely’ to do so – down from a 41% high in 2009 – and 45% said they were ‘fairly likely’ to do so. Girls were more likely than boys to say they were likely to go in to higher education (81% vs 73%), whilst those who said they were on Free School Meals were less likely (67%) than those who said they were not (79%) to say they were likely to go into higher education.

Among pupils who were either likely to go to university, or were not sure either way yet, 46% were worried about the cost of higher education. Unsurprisingly, a greater proportion of pupils from ‘low affluence’ families (58%) were worried about the cost than those in ‘high affluence’ families (41%). Similarly, those in single parent/guardian households were more likely than those in two-parent/guardian households to be worried about the cost of education (52% vs 44%).

Of those pupils who were either likely to go into education or were not sure either way yet, and who were worried about the cost of education, their biggest concern was tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year (38%). The second greatest concern was having to repay student loads for up to 30 years (24%), whilst 16% said that their biggest concern was the cost of living as a student.

Among pupils who said it was unlikely that they would go into higher education, the most common set of reasons was that they don’t like the idea / don’t enjoy learning or studying (58%). Financial reasons (44%) and the belief that they don’t need Higher Education for a job (35%), were the next most common set of reasons.

Technical Note

  • On behalf of The Sutton Trust, Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,381 school children aged 11-16 in schools in England and Wales. Pupils were selected from a random sample of schools that excluded fee-paying schools, 6th form colleges and special schools. Self-completion questionnaires were completed at school either on paper or online between 5th February and 25th May 2018. Data are weighted by school year, gender and region to match the profile of school children across England and Wales.
  • Pupils were grouped into high (1226 participants), medium (830 participants) or low (279 participants) family affluence scores based on their answers to four questions in the survey relating to the number of times they had been on holiday with their family in the last year, whether they have their own bedroom, the number of computers owned by their family, and the number of cars, vans or trucks owned by their family. This categorisation is taken from the World Health Organisation’s Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study.
  • There were 243 participants who said they were on Free School Meals, and 1970 who said they were not.
  • There were 1090 participants who identified as male, and 1269 participants who identified as female.
  • There were 963 participants who were likely to go into higher education or aren't sure either way yet and are worried about the cost of higher education.
  • 2099 participants were likely to go into higher education or weren’t sure either way yet.
  • The specific reasons respondents gave for not going into Higher Education have been grouped into more general categories as follows:
    • “Don’t like the idea / don’t enjoy learning or studying” includes participants who gave the following responses: “I prefer to do something practical rather than studying from books”, “I do not enjoy learning”, and “Someone from a university talked to me about higher education and it put me off”.
    • “A financial reason” includes students who gave the following responses: “I want to start earning money as soon as possible”, “I’m worried about getting into debt as a student”, “My family can't afford to pay for me to be a student”, and “My family want me to start earning money as soon as possible”.
    • “Not needed for job” includes students who gave the following responses: “I can get a well-paid job without a degree” and “I do not need a degree to do the job(s) I am considering”.

 

The author(s)

  • David Swordy Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Emily Mason Public Affairs

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