Most young people – in fact 70% – aged 11-16 still say that they are likely to go into higher education according to a poll of more than 2000 state school students carried out by MORI commissioned by the Sutton Trust.

The poll was conducted between January and March in 254 schools and coincided with the highly-publicised debate about the introduction of top-up fees for students.

The survey showed however that the proportion of students who said that they were very likely to go to university has dropped from 40% last year to 33%. The timing of the survey may go some way to explaining the fall in the relative levels of certainty expressed by young people, according to MORI.

This may also explain says MORI the significant increase in the number of young people who are not sure whether or not they will go to university. This has increased from 14% (one in seven) last year to 18% (nearly one in five) this year.
The proportion of boys who say that they are either very or fairly likely to go to university has declined from 70% last year to 66% this year. Boys are now significantly more likely than girls (33% versus 22%) to give not getting good enough exam results as a reason for being unlikely to go on into higher education.

Minority ethnic pupils are more certain than white pupils to think they are likely to go into higher education (80% as compared with 68%).

The survey found that only a minority of young people (18%) says that they are unlikely to go into higher education because they are worried about getting into debt as a student. But this rises to 30% of young people in households where no adult is in paid work.
The survey also found that 85% of state school pupils rate their school as fairly good, very good or excellent and 66% said they enjoyed school most of the time.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said “It is excellent news that, in spite of the debate about top-up fees this year, aspirations remain extremely high amongst our young people. However, the increase of uncertainty amongst this age group, with more students saying they are fairly, rather than very likely to progress, is a reminder that there is no room for complacency in our attitude to widening participation.

“While only a minority of young people overall are worried by the prospect of student debt, these findings show that for students in the lowest income homes this prospect is a real block on their ambition. We must make sure that there is sufficient help and support available for all young people to be able to realise their high aspirations when the time comes.”

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