The younger that students decide higher education is for them, the more likely they are to go to a ‘higher tariff’ university, according to UCAS’ widest-ever student survey.
Being certain about higher education by age 10 or earlier means a child is 2.6 times as likely to end up at a more competitive university than someone who decided in their late teens. The most advantaged young people are more likely to be focused on university at a young age than their more disadvantaged peers.
Over 16,000 recent applicants responded to the UCAS survey asking about the motivations and influences behind their university choices, and the factors that deterred them.
Six and a half thousand people told UCAS why they didn’t apply to the ‘higher tariff’ group of universities Nearly half (49%) thought the entry requirements to these universities were too high, and more would have applied if they had known they had a chance of getting in.
There was also a lack of understanding of career pathways from ‘academic sounding’ degree courses – 41% believed none of these universities offered the courses they were interested in.
The costs involved in going to university were also a deterrent. Three quarters said they would have applied to a higher tariff university if they were offered a travel voucher for an open day, and a quarter of the least advantaged students who didn’t apply to higher tariff universities said they felt the cost of living would be too high.
In the report, UCAS recommends that all universities provide accessible information about accommodation, transport, and day-to-day living costs.
The survey also asked what students felt about the relationship between their higher education choices and employment. The least advantaged were 30% more likely to think the degree subject studied was key to employment, while more advantaged applicants were 50% more likely to think the university they went to was more important for securing a job.
Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: “This report is clear: the earlier children set their sights on university, the more likely they are to go. We need to reset the barometer reading for progression to HE to a much earlier age – ten or younger. Having a focus on university helps provide the rationale for working hard and doing well at GCSEs, which is the strongest predictor of success in higher education”.