Young people think that knowing the right people and being confident are more important for getting on in life than going to university, according to new Ipsos MORI polling published by the Sutton Trust on A-level results day (today).
Out of more than 2,000 11 – 16-year olds surveyed this year, almost nine out of 10 (85%) said it’s important to be confident to do well and get on in life. Three quarters felt that having connections was crucial, with 75% saying that ‘knowing the right people’ is important for success in life.
However, just under two-thirds (65%) said they think it’s important to go to university. This has fallen from a high of 86% in 2013, with the proportion who feel that going to university is not important rising from 11% in 2013 to 20% in 2019.
The polling highlights how perceptions of the importance of university differ by social and ethnic background. University was deemed less important for young people from the least affluent families (61% compared with 67% in ‘high affluence’ households), and white pupils (62% compared with 75% of young people from a BME background).
The decline in young people’s perception of the importance of university may in part be down to a growing awareness of apprenticeships and other high-quality training routes. Almost two-thirds (64%) of young people said they’d be interested in doing an apprenticeship rather than going to university, if one was available for a job they wanted to do.
Despite this, three-quarters (77%) of young people think they’re likely to go on to higher education after school. This is a similar rate to the past few years, but slightly below the high of 81% in 2013. University aspirations also differ by social background. In 2019, 67% of pupils from the least affluent families thought they were likely to go into higher education, compared to 83% in ‘high affluence’ households.
Of the young people who said it was unlikely they would go into higher education, the most common set of reasons – given by 62% of those across England and Wales who are unlikely to attend – was they don’t like the idea or don’t enjoy learning or studying. 43% cited a financial reason, while 41% said that they weren’t clever enough or wouldn’t get good enough exam results to get in.
Today’s polling also finds a small decline in doubts about the cost of going to university. Two-fifths (40%) of young people who are likely to go to university or who aren’t sure either way yet, are worried about the cost of higher education, down from 46% in 2018. However, money worries continue to be pronounced for young people from the least affluent families (50% compared with 32% in ‘high affluence’ households) and for girls over boys (44% vs 36%).
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said today:
“It’s no surprise that young people have doubts about the importance of higher education. Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university, they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age. And in many cases they will end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.
“Young people need better advice and guidance on where different degrees and apprenticeships could lead them, so they can make the right decision regarding their future.”
NOTES TO EDITORS