Sutton Trust poll shows fewer pupils expect to attend University

Sutton Trust poll shows University expectations in decline

Social mobility organisation The Sutton Trust is urging the Government to reform the student funding system after a new Ipsos MORI poll shows that the proportion of young people who think they are likely to go into Higher Education has fallen to the lowest level since 2009.

The poll, which quizzed 2,612 year 7-11 children in England and Wales, found that 74 per cent of young people think that they are either very or fairly likely to go into higher education. This is down from a high of 81 per cent in 2013 and 77 per cent in 2016. In 2008, just eight percent of young people thought that it was unlikely that they would go into higher education. That figure has risen to 14 per cent in 2017, up from 11 per cent in 2016.

The proportion of pupils from ‘low affluence’ households who believe they are likely to go into Higher Education has fallen to lowest level for the seven years for which data is available (61 per cent). Girls (77 per cent) are more likely than boys (70 per cent) to expect to enter higher education too.

Money worries are particularly pronounced in families with low levels of affluence (66 per cent compared with 46% in ‘high affluence’ households). Of those likely to go to university, when asked to consider their biggest concern about the cost of going into HE, 46 per cent say they are most worried about tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year, with 18% citing that they have to repay student loans for up to 30 years and 16 per cent the cost of living as a student.

The Sutton Trust is calling for means-testing fees so poorer students face lower fees and graduate debt, restoring maintenance grants and introducing a fairer repayment system.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“It is no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people hoping to go into Higher Education. Our own separate research has shown that graduates will be paying back their loans well into middle age, affecting their ability to go to graduate school, afford a mortgage and decisions on having children.

“With debts up to £57,000 for poorer graduates and soaring student loan interest rates, the system is badly in need of reform. It is outrageous that someone from a council estate should pay more than someone from a top boarding school. This reform should include means-testing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants so poorer students face lower fees and lower debt on graduation.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said:

"It is no surprise that young people are unwilling to take on the huge debts now required to attend university, particularly since the average student leaves university with debts in excess of £50,000. Many young people who have experienced their families’ financial struggles as children will be wary of taking on such a huge burden of debt."

She continued: "Cuts to university budgets have also affected widening participation programmes, so there is less money for outreach programmes to help disadvantaged young people aware of the opportunities in higher education. The increase in disadvantaged young people not applying for university is as a result of the Government abolishing maintenance grants for students from low-income homes, and allowing universities to put up their fees further if they reach agreed standards in teaching.”

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