Students swayed by the old school

October 26, 2001

Students still discriminate, sometimes unwittingly, between old and new universities when they choose where to apply, according to a survey published today.

Some 89 per cent of applicants said that an institution's reputation was an important or very important consideration, according to a survey by Barkers, a marketing and recruitment advertising agency.

The reputation of a university ranked the third most important factor, after the availability of the course (93 per cent) and the quality of the teaching (90 per cent).

Students held firm views about the value of the degree they would earn. Students at old universities said that it would be easier to get a really good job if you had gone to one of these institutions. Students enrolled at new universities believed that their qualifications would not be as highly valued by employers.

The survey found that nearly a quarter of applicants would pay top-up fees to attend a prestigious university. Of those, nearly half came from independent schools.

Jeff Marshall, head of education research at Barkers, said: "People are still very conscious of the distinction between old and new universities.

"We had rather hoped that the old binary line was being eroded... and we weren't particularly pleased that people are still very aware of it.

"The finding is terribly important in terms of how a university positions itself. A lot of our work is with worthy older institutions that have slipped from grace."

About 3,000 pupils in schools and colleges completed the survey. The pupils were given a list of 21 universities and were asked whether they were old or new universities. Most of them got it right.

The agency conducted interviews with students already at university or college and found that they had "high levels of understanding of their institution's position in terms of reputation and academic standards".

The Binary Line Revisited is published today by Barkers, London.

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