Money worries ‘putting young people off university’
By Mark Smulian | 28 September 2012
Fear of debt could be deterring significant numbers of young people from going to university, the Sutton Trust charity said today.
It added that those who did go on to higher education were often constrained in their choice of places by financial pressures.
The trust, which works to highlight educational barriers facing young people from non-privileged backgrounds, commissioned Ipsos Mori to examine attitudes to higher education among 11- to 16-year-old state school pupils.
It found that 80% of the 2,750 young people polled aspired to enter higher education. But those from single parent families were almost three times as likely to believe higher education was unaffordable than those living in two-parent homes.
Of those who said they were unlikely to continue into higher education, older pupils were more likely to cite worries over getting into debt than younger ones.
Just over half of all those polled believed that elite institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge were attended mainly by people from wealthy backgrounds, and 27% said these universities were ‘not for people like me’.
Despite these fears, 81% believed they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ likely to enter higher education, but that proportion fell to 74% among those from the least affluent families.
Sutton Trust chair Sir Peter Lampl said: ‘It is a real concern if those with the ability for higher education feel are being deterred by debt.
‘The government should think again about its fees and loans package. There is increasing evidence that the new fees are seen as too high, particularly by those on modest means.’
The Russell Group, which represents the leading research-based universities, said fears about its members’ tuition costs were misplaced.
Director general Wendy Platt said: ‘This report shows the size of the challenge we all face in battling myths and stereotypes about the cost and openness of leading universities.
‘The truth is that all Russell Group universities are wide open to students with the right grades, ability and potential from all backgrounds.’
Meanwhile, the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s annual National Student Survey found 85% of students were satisfied overall with their course, the highest satisfaction level recorded in the survey’s eight year existence.