The number of young people in Britain who think that it is important to go to university has decreased to just under two-thirds, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for the Sutton Trust.
Meanwhile, the proportion of those who said it was not important rose from 11% to 20% over the same period.
64% of young people said they would be interested in doing an apprenticeship, rather than going to university, if one was available for a job they wanted to do.
The Sutton Trust said that the findings “may in part be down to a growing awareness of apprenticeships and other high-quality training routes”.
There were three other major reasons given by young people who said it was unlikely they would go into higher education: they did not like the idea or enjoy learning/studying (62%), financial issues (43%), and concerns that they aren’t clever enough/wouldn’t get good enough grades (41%).
The poll also identified how perceptions of university differ by social and ethnic background.
University was deemed less important for young people from the least affluent families, with 61% viewing it as important compared with 67% in ‘high affluence’ households.
75% of students from a BAME background deemed university to be important compared with 62% of white students.
Young people need better advice and guidance on where different degrees and apprenticeships could lead them, so they can make the right decision regarding their future
– Sir Peter Lampl
Thinktank Reform said that this data showed an “alarming aspirations gap”.
Luke Heselwood, Reform’s education lead said: “Higher education remains the primary route to top jobs and poorer pupils must not be put off from applying, otherwise improving social mobility will remain a pipe dream.”
This poll comes as figures released by UCAS show that the number of students on undergraduate courses have fallen by 0.7% annually since 2016.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “It’s no surprise that young people have doubts about the importance of higher education.
“Young people face a dilemma. 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 many cases, they will end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.
“Young people need better advice and guidance on where different degrees and apprenticeships could lead them, so they can make the right decision regarding their future.”