Sutton Trust polling on university aspirations is cited by Richard Vaughan in an article for the I.

School leavers are increasingly losing faith in the importance of gaining a degree, as they face being lumbered with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, research suggests.

The study indicates that the proportion of secondary school pupils who believe they must go to university to succeed has dropped steadily in recent years.

The findings, published by the Sutton Trust, come as sixth-formers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results and learn if they have gained a university place.

According to the poll of around 2,300 children aged 11-16 in England and Wales, 75 per cent believe it is important to go to university, down from a high of 86 per cent in 2013. Fewer than a third – 32 per cent – of the young people polled said they were “very likely” to go into higher education, down from a high of 41 per cent in 2009.

Poorer pupils – those eligible for free school meals – are less likely to say they are planning to go to university with just 67 per stating this was their intention compared with 79 per cent of their richer classmates, the Sutton Trust said.

Of the young people who said they they are unlikely to go into higher education, 44 per cent cited finances as the reason behind their decision.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust said, the figures showed that young people face a “dilemma” when it comes to leaving school. “If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age,” he said.

“On the other hand, degree-level apprenticeships are almost non-existent with less than 10,000 available each year compared with over 300,000 university places. There is effectively no viable alternative to university.”

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