Two thirds of school children worry about the cost of going to university, a new Ipsos MORI poll of 2,595 11-16 year-olds for the Sutton Trust reveals today, even though their aspirations for a higher education remain as high as ever.

65% of all the young people polled had significant concerns about university finance which break down as follows:  28% were concerned about tuition fees; 19% were concerned about student living costs and 18% were concerned about lack of earnings while studying. Only 7% said they were not concerned about the cost of going to university.

And although 67% of young people said the most important consideration when deciding whether or not to go to university would be their exam grades, 17% said it would be the cost of going to university.

But students from the least affluent families (23%) are much more likely to cite cost as the biggest consideration than those from the most affluent families (14%).

However, university aspirations remain high. 86% of those surveyed believe going to university is important in ‘helping people do well and get on in life’, with 43% rating it ‘very important’.

38% of young people say they are very likely to go to university when they are older, and 43% say they are fairly likely to do so. This is the same proportion as last year when the same question was asked. A higher proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic students (49%) say they are very likely to go to university than White students (35%).

Of those who say they are unlikely to go into higher education 49% say they would prefer to do something practical , 57% cite financial considerations and 41% think they are not clever enough. 18% say ‘people like me are not expected to go to university’.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today: “It is clear from this poll that many young people remain worried about the cost of higher education. Graduates face debts of over £40,000 with the higher fees and many will be paying for their university studies into their fifties.

“While there may have been some uplift in university applications this year, student numbers are not yet back to 2010 levels. We are urging the Government to means test university fees, as used to be the case, so that those from low and middle income families pay less for tuition.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to Access to the Professions.
  2. The Sutton Trust added questions to Ipsos MORI’s 2013 Young People Omnibus.  The findings are based on data from a representative sample of 2,595 11-16 year olds attending maintained schools in England and Wales. The research was conducted in a sample of schools, with pupils filling out paper self-completion questionnaires under supervision by Ipsos MORI’s interviewers. Fieldwork was conducted between 1 February and 19 April 2013. Data has been weighted by school year, gender and region to match the profile of school children across England and Wales.
  3. Tuition fees were means-tested when they were first introduced for UK undergraduates at a rate of £1000 in 1998. Means-testing ended in 2006 when variable fees of up to £3000 a year were introduced.  Eligibility for maintenance grants is already means-tested.

Q: Which ONE of the following do you think will be the most important consideration when you are deciding whether to go to university?

  Family Affluence Scale[1]
Base size:259511711021352
My exam grades67%71%65%60%
The cost of going to university17%14%17%23%
What my parents think3%3%3%2%
What my teachers think*%[2]*%*%*%
Something else3%3%4%3%
Not stated10%9%11%12%

Q: Thinking about the cost of going to university, which ONE of the following is the biggest concern for you?

  Family Affluence Scale
Base size:259511711021352
Tuition fees28%28%30%26%
The cost of living as a student19%20%19%16%
Not being able to earn money while you’re studying18%18%17%20%
Does not apply – I’m not concerned about the cost of university7%8%7%6%
Don’t know15%14%15%20%
Not stated12%13%12%12%

Q: How likely or unlikely are you to go into higher education when you are old enough?

Base size:2595
Very likely38%
Fairly likely43%
Fairly unlikely6%
Very unlikely3%
Not sure either way yet8%
Not stated1%

Q: How important, if at all, is each of the following things in helping people to do well and get on in life?

– Going to university –

Base size:2595
Very important43%
Fairly important43%
Not Very important10%
Not at all important1%
Don’t know1%
Not stated2%


[1] The family affluence scale is derived from questions asked of children about their household, including how many bedrooms, cars and computers it contains.  Children are then classified as being in families of high, medium or low affluence.

[2] * denotes a percentage of less than 0.5.

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