To get on, skip university and do an apprenticeship – survey

Respondents to Social Mobility Commission poll feel on-the-job training offers better prospects than higher education

December 11, 2018

Taking an apprenticeship offers young people a better chance of getting on in life than going to university, according to respondents to a major UK survey.

The poll of 5,520 adults conducted on behalf of the Social Mobility Commission found that 30 per cent of respondents feel that an apprenticeship offers the best prospects, compared with 26 per cent who felt that higher education was a better bet.

Further education is preferred by 14 per cent, while 8 per cent advocate going straight into employment.

Only the youngest respondents – those aged between 18 and 24 – feel that university offers the best prospects for career or life advancement, with around one in three (34 per cent) of this age group selecting this option, compared to 20 per cent of respondents who backed apprenticeships.

Among over-65s, nearly twice as many respondents feel that apprenticeships were a better choice than higher education (41 per cent versus 21 per cent).

The responses may be explained in part by responses to a further question which found that three-quarters of respondents (75 per cent) feel that people from poor backgrounds have less chance of going to a “top” university than those from more advantaged backgrounds. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) feel that poorer people have less chance of attending any university.

Overall, 46 per cent of respondents feel that the UK today is a society in which “where you end up…is mainly determined by your background and who your parents are”. A third (33 per cent) feel that “everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will take them”. Young people are least likely to feel that the UK is a meritocracy.

The survey was released on 11 December to coincide with the relaunch of the Social Mobility Commission under a new chair, Dame Martina Milburn. The relaunch includes the allocation of an additional £2 million of government funding for research and evidence on social mobility.

“If we fail to act, too many young people will continue to face challenges getting into colleges, universities and employment,” said Dame Martina. “We all need to do more to tackle these issues, but there needs to be renewed focus from government, educators and employers.”

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