Proportion of young people wanting to go to university drops, says poll

16 Aug 18

The proportion of young people who think it is important to go to university has declined gradually over the past five years, according to figures released by an educational charity today. 

An Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by the Sutton Trust found 75% of the 2,381 11 - 16 years olds surveyed in England and Wales this year thought university was important to do well in life.

This was down from a high of 86% of people asked the same question in 2013 and 78% in 2017.

Ipsos Mori’s recent polling highlighted an increased interest among young people in undertaking an apprenticeship, at 64% this year up from 55% in 2014.

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents in this year’s survey said that ‘knowing the right people’ was important for success in life.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: ‘It’s no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people who think it’s important to go into higher education.

“Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age.

“And in a number of cases they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.”

Although, he added, degree-level apprenticeships were almost “non-existent” with less than 10,000 available each year compared with more than 300,000 university places.

Less than a third (32%) of the young people surveyed said that they were ‘very likely’ to go into higher education, again down from a high of 41% in 2009.

The results also demonstrated a difference in aspirations between genders and social groups.

For example, disadvantaged pupils were less likely than their peers to believe that they’re likely to go into higher education (67% vs 79%) while girls were more likely than boys to expect to enter higher education (81% vs 73%).

The polling further shows that nearly half (46%) of young people who were likely to go to university were worried about the cost of higher education.

These money fears were particularly prominent in young people from the least affluent families (58% compared with 41% in ‘high affluence’ households).

The Sutton Trust is calling on the government to restore maintenance grants and review the case for means-testing tuition fees.  It wants to ensure the cost of going to university is “not a barrier to anyone”.

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