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Young people divided on university aspirations

Junior University programme aims to broaden horizons

A majority of young people not planning to go to university from more disadvantaged backgrounds think university just ‘isn’t for them’, according to new Which? University research.

We found more young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (36%) weren’t planning to apply to university, compared to those from more advantaged backgrounds (16%). 

When asked why, 63% of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds felt that university ‘wasn’t for them’, while 42% assumed that it was too expensive. Only a quarter (26%) of young people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds thought the same.

Undecided about university

Thirty-seven percent of the 1,000 16-19 year-olds we surveyed hadn’t made up their minds about university yet. Those who were uncertain said there was either too much to think about, they didn’t think they had enough information, or they were confused by their options.

The research was jointly conducted by Which? University and education charity the Transformation Trust, who have teamed up to launch a pioneering programme for 3,000 Year 10 students in schools in selected communities across the UK.

A new uni myth-busting programme

The Junior University programme will pair students with current undergraduate mentors from 11 universities to work on an academic project together. Students will get a real-life view of what degree-level learning is like, while busting some of the myths around going to university along the way.

Which? University’s Alex Hayman said: ‘We want to ensure young people can make well-informed decisions about their futures armed with the right information and confidence they need. Without that, there’s a danger they may limit their own ambition or think certain opportunities just aren’t for them.

‘The advice, support and real-life experience of what university is like, which Junior University will offer, is critical to helping young people think about their options earlier and broaden their horizons.’

Helping inform future plans

Our research also uncovered:

  • Nearly half (45%) of young people who plan to attend university worry about ‘fitting in’.
  • Only 55% of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds knew the correct student loan income repayment threshold was £21,000, compared to 64% of those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Twice as many young people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds said they are going to apply to university because their friends will be applying (25%), compared to one in seven or 13% from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Transformation Trust’s Amy Leonard said: ‘Universities are already putting a lot of effort into encouraging young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds to give serious consideration to continuing their studies post school. Junior University aims to inject new energy into these efforts by focusing on students who have typically not yet made up their minds.

‘With undergraduates giving a taster of what university is really like, Junior University aims to encourage 15 year-olds to ‘think big’ about their futures and instead of ruling out university, rule it in.’   

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