Richard Adams covers today’s new polling on university aspirations in the Guardian.

Young people are becoming more sceptical about the benefits of going to university, despite a large majority saying they want to carry on to higher education, research suggests.

The findings coincide with the publication on Thursday of A-level and BTec level three grades for hundreds of thousands of sixth formers. University admissions offices were braced for a flood of enquiries after more than 600,000 candidates applied though the Ucas process this year.

Thanks to a rapid expansion in the number of university places available in recent years and a slight fall in the number of applicants overall, a significant number of courses still have places available. More than 26,000 places are on offer through the clearing system at universities in England alone, including some belonging to the Russell group of leading research institutions, according to the Press Association.

The new research, carried out by Ipsos Mori for the Sutton Trust, polled 2,300 English and Welsh pupils aged 11 to 16.

It found that 75%agreed it was “important” to go to university, down from 86% in 2013.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they were likely to go to university, although the number of those who said they were “very likely” to go slipped from 38% in 2013 to 32% this year.

The Sutton Trust charity promotes social mobility through education. Its founder, Sir Peter Lampl, said it was no surprise to see the fall in enthusiasm tempered by the realities of being a student.

“Young people face a dilemma,” he said. “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 a number of cases they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.

“On the other hand, degree-level apprenticeships are almost non-existent, with fewer 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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