Cost of university a concern for nearly half of schoolchildren

But more than three-quarters still expect to enrol, Sutton Trust finds

August 12, 2016
On target

More than three-quarters of young people in England and Wales expect to go to university, but nearly half of them are worried about the cost, according to a major survey.

A poll of 2,555 pupils at academies and state schools aged between 11 and 16, conducted on behalf of the Sutton Trust, found that 77 per cent of respondents felt that it was very or fairly likely that they would enrol in higher education.

Girls were slightly more likely than boys to expect to study for a degree (79 per cent compared with 75 per cent), while only one in 10 respondents (11 per cent) said that it was unlikely that they would go to university.

However, 47 per cent of pupils said that they were worried about the cost of higher education, with tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year being the major cause for concern. Keeping up with loan repayments after graduation and the cost of living as a student were also areas of anxiety.

The Sutton Trust has conducted a similar survey every year since 2003, revealing that the proportion of young people who expect to go to university has increased by 6 percentage points over the past 13 years.

Of the students who said this year that they were unlikely to enrol in higher education, 68 per cent of respondents said that it was because they did not like this type of learning. Finance was the major concern of 62 per cent of respondents, while other key reasons were not being clever enough (44 per cent) and not needing a degree for a job (43 per cent).

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that it was “encouraging to see that aspirations among our young people remain high”.

“However, there is still a minority who think that university isn’t for them, or that they aren’t clever enough to go,” Sir Peter added. “We know from previous research that pupils from poorer households are more likely to be in this group.

“The axeing of maintenance grants loads up poorer students with even more debt on top of the current debt levels which are more than double the [level in the] US. Even if it does not deter poorer students from applying, the debt levels they incur are storing up major problems for them in the future.”

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