Fees ARE putting the most disadvantaged young people off university, says new report

Contrary to previous reports, UCU report finds that increased fees are putting the most disadvantaged young people off university.

Contrary to previous reports, UCU report finds that increased fees are putting the most disadvantaged young people off university

Cost, poor advice and a perceived lack of jobs are putting young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds off higher education, warns a report from the University and College Union (UCU) out today.

It seems that the way in which successive governments have promoted higher education as an instrumental tool to better jobs, salaries and outcomes is now coming home to roost.

Young people now make the decision on whether or not to go to university in the context of £9,000 annual fees, rising unemployment and a gruelling loan scheme. Those who decide not to progress seemingly reject this rationale.  

Contrary to evidence suggesting that the increase in tuition fees is not deterring young participants from participating in higher education, the findings in this research suggest that finance does play a key role in the decision making process and that the system is certainly not failing children from affluent backgrounds.

The report shows how a young person’s background is a strong predictor of their likelihood of going to university. This pattern is observed across school type, social grade, gender, age, qualification level and occupation.

Privately educated young people are twice as likely to want to go to university as those attending a state school, and only three in ten college express a desire for further study. Two-thirds of those from social grades AB say they plan to go on to higher education, compared to just half of those from social grades DE.

Young men are significantly less likely to express aspirations to progress to higher education than young women and two-thirds of younger learners say they want to progress to higher education compared to half of older learners. The decline in desire to progress to higher education across the age range is steeper for young women than for young men.

It is noteworthy that the desire to progress to HE is less prominent among those who work part-time. Those who have a part-time job for 11 hours or more per week were more likely than those who attend school or college full time to say that they want to avoid debt, and say that that the expense of university is a barrier to higher education for them.

Ultimately, combinations of these characteristics prevail to entrench the patterns of disadvantage we see in our society and restrict access to the personal and social benefits of higher education.

The report also shines a light on the problems with our information, advice and guidance system. The guidance young people do receive is also heavily dominated by their background and not all young people have access to the tools to make the best decisions for their future. 

The ways in which young people receive advice and guidance is still far too haphazard. Three-fifths of young people say that they have not spoken to a careers advisor, seven out of 10 have not visited a university or college and 90 per cent have never spoken to a business professional.

Higher education remains an unexplored concept for far too many young people. We are calling for a complete overhaul of careers education. All young people must have access to clear and dedicated information, advice and guidance which includes expansive outreach work by colleges and universities in the community.

We need to see a far more radical and open collaborative model and the government should provide taxpayer funding to support this.

Unless we act decisively now, we risk a generation of young people making decisions about their futures based on inadequate advice and condemning them, and particularly youngsters from the poorest backgrounds, to the scrapheap through no fault of their own.

Angela Nartey is a policy officer at the University and College Union

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13 Responses to “Fees ARE putting the most disadvantaged young people off university, says new report”

  1. Wyrdtimes

    Presumably an article about English education. As English students the only ones paying £9000 a year. A Labour idea iirc. Got through WM on the back of unaccountable Scottish MPs whose constituents remain unaffected. Thanks Labour.

  2. swat

    Excellent article. As a member of UCU, I’d agree that many are put off Uni Education by the fees, but would also add that a UNI Education isn’t the be all and end all of success. There are alternative routes some more suitable for candidates really considering whether a Uni Education is really for them. A vocational route and picking up quaifications along the way is also an excellent route. That is why the voice of NATFHE now merged with Uni Lecturers needs to be heard a lot more. Stand up for FE!

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Or going to study in Europe where it’s cheaper.

    Oh, that doesn’t really help UK HE does it. Sigh!
    We need *both* strong HE and FE, and right now things are not improving for either.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Thing is, the effect was largely seen at 3.3k from the admissions data I’ve seen from two Universities.

    (The government is already looking at changing the repayment schedule as well, as it’s realised how badly it’s screwed up and the sort of debt it’s getting into over fees…)

  5. Question

    Don’t you think this headline is a little misleading? In fact you didn’t even ask about fees specifically, just ‘cost’, which fees are only one factor in. Moreover there are no cross-breaks to show that it is in fact the most disadvantaged that are being disproportionately affected by fees. Given that the those people in your sample who are planning on going to university are actually more, not less, concerned with cost and debt than those who aren’t (36% vs. 51% and 26% vs. 44% respectively), and that those same people are more likely to be in higher social grades, isn’t the reverse likely to be true? Either I’m making a composition fallacy there, or you’re suggesting a cause for low attendance with an inverse relationship to reported likelihood to attend university. Would really like to see those cross-breaks.

  6. JoeDM

    Of course it was Labour who introduced them in the first place

  7. Joe Docherty

    There’s nothing in this article to demonstrate any causality between £9k fees and the author’s claim that the socially disadvantaged are being put off going to university. It is merely a string of assertions.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    So you deny the study because it doesn’t fit your bias, k.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    And once more you try and conflate Labor and the Left. It gets old.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    The 3.3k fees did most of it, though.

    There’s an argument for paying something, as in much of Europe…but also limiting it to the ~1k/year fees charged in said much of Europe.

  11. Joe Docherty

    No, actually. Because there is no EVIDENCE presented in the article. It is just a collection of assertions.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    So you haven’t even read the study. What a surprise.

  13. s

    Fees don’t put people off university, a 3-4 year holiday paid by the tax payer for people to attend non worthy degrees and not earn enough to pay their loans back. TOTAL waste of public money.

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