Parents think university too expensive, but necessary

YouGov
February 26, 2014, 10:59 AM UTC

YouGov/Guardian poll shows more than half of parents think higher education is too expensive but majority say it is best for careers

YouGov research, conducted in collaboration with the Guardian, reveals that six in 10 parents across all social backgrounds with secondary school-age children think university degrees are not worth the money, versus only 14% who believe tuition fees offer a good deal.

However, the survey shows that parents still believe it is important for their own child to attend university. Parents believe that 35% of young people in Britain go to university, but 63% think their child will apply and 44% say it’s important to them that their child does go on to higher education.

The research exposes a marked regional divide in parents expecting that their child will apply to university, with London leading the way at 77%, compared to 56% of parents in the North East who expect their child to apply to university.

The survey also shows that socioeconomic factors heavily influence whether parents expect their child to apply to university. Eight in 10 families with an annual household income of £50k+ expect their child to go on to higher education, versus 56% of those parents with an income under £20k. Furthermore, 76% of parents who went to university expect their child to do the same, while just 46% of those parents who left school at 16 expect their child to apply to university.

Despite a large percentage of parents expecting their child to go to university, there is a high degree of scepticism about its benefits. Nearly a third (29%) say university education is over-rated, 32% say their child would benefit more from going to work rather than university, and yet just over a quarter (26%) say that if you don’t have a degree these days you can’t get a decent job.

Six out of 10 parents do not consider current tuition fees to be good value for money, and respondents are evenly split as to whether the benefits of a high paid job make up for debts accrued paying for university. The YouGov/Guardian research shows that the top thing universities can do to combat scepticism is be clear how individual degree courses improve the student’s employment chances.

The research findings are being presented today ( 26 February 2014) at the Guardian University Forum, in London, which you can follow on Twitter #gdnuniforum

Access the presentation