UCU calls for better advice on university for young people

Move follows survey highlighting gulf between social classes on guidance

December 8, 2014

Young people are being put off higher education because of the perceived cost, concerns about their future job prospects and poor advice.

Those are among the findings drawn out by the University and College Union from a survey it commissioned on young people’s perceptions of post-18 training and education.

ComRes polled 2,006 young people aged 13 to 17 and found that those not planning on going into higher education said the main barriers were that they were not necessarily guaranteed a job (40 per cent), that it was too expensive (36 per cent) and that they wanted to avoid debt (26 per cent).

However, these concerns were also the top three put forward by students who did intend to go into higher education.

The survey also showed that the type of school attended was strongly associated with aspirations to go to university.

Four-fifths (78 per cent) of pupils at private school said they wanted to go on to higher education after school or college, compared with just 62 per cent of state school students and 31 per cent of college students.

Social class and school attended was also associated with the level of information young people received, according to the survey.

About 17 per cent of school pupils in the DE social grades said that they had received no advice or guidance about their future when they leave, compared with just 9 per cent in the AB social grades.

The UCU said the report highlighted the importance of advice and guidance for young people when it came to considering university.

Just 31 per cent of young people said they had been to an open day at a university or college, but almost all those who had – 95 per cent – said that they had found the experience useful.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Worryingly, class, gender and schooling still play far too large a part in whether or not young people even consider university, with boys from state schools and the poorest economic backgrounds faring worst.

“This report highlights how young people are worried by the perceived cost of university and further hindered by a lack of good advice.

“If everyone is to benefit, young people need to be persuaded that continuing in education is a viable option. Young people should have access to high-quality independent advice on their future irrespective of gender, background or the type of school they attend.”

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