English students would be prepared to pay nearly £23,000 a year in tuition fees, a survey suggests.
Asked about the maximum amount they would be prepared to pay annually for their university education, students at one Russell Group institution gave a mean average answer of £22,770.
But the 223 students who responded to the survey, drawn from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, gave a very different answer when they were asked what they thought they should have to pay. Their average answer to this question, the annual conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education heard, was £3,810.
Elizabeth Staddon, senior education developer at the University of the Arts London, said the results might indicate that students “don’t feel they have a choice” about enrolling in higher education, for career or social reasons.
But she also highlighted evidence from focus groups conducted at the same institution, which suggested that students were relatively relaxed about levels of student debt, because repayments would be deducted directly from their future salaries.
“A number reported that they didn’t think in terms of value for money very often and that they were unconcerned about paying a debt for money that they will never see,” says the paper presented at the conference.
The research, conducted by Ms Staddon with Jon Catling and Alison Davies of the University of Birmingham, found that 8.5 per cent of respondents said they would not have gone to university if fees had been increased beyond present levels. Twice as many said they would not have gone if fees went above £15,000.