Access for all

Access for all report cover Access for All uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) for the years 2004–2009. The research comprised three, distinct analytical stages, all focused on those young people who had achieved Key Stage 4 qualifications at the age of 16 or 17 (Year 11), expressed motivation to go to university, but answered positively to the question:

“Have the financial aspects of going to university, that is the costs of fees and living expenses, ever made you think about not applying?”

Stage 1 of the research explored the characteristics of this “concerned” group at age 16 in both descriptive and associational terms, in relation to a range of factors, notably: gender; ethnicity; parental education, earnings and occupation; attitudes to debt; attitudes to higher education; and, peer influences. The characteristics of this “concerned” group were compared to a “committed” group who answered ‘No’ to the question above.

Stage 2 explored early precursors of financial worries among the “concerned” group identified in Stage 1 during school Years 9-11, including school type and parental factors.

Stage 3 explored the subsequent decisions of this “concerned” group, i.e. who in this group did and did not choose to go on to university, and what factors predicted this decision.

Key findings

The research found that 34% of those who had achieved Key Stage 4 and expressed a motivation to go to university reported that the financial aspects of higher education, such as fees and living expenses, had made them think about not applying.

Indian young people were far less likely to be concerned (18%), along with Pakistani (20%), Bangladeshi (19%) and Black African young people (22%), compared to those who were White (36%), Black Caribbean (41%) or had a mixed race background (33%).

Young people who lived in a household with an annual income of £52,000 per annum or more were far less likely to be concerned (26%) than those who lived in a household with lower annual incomes, particularly incomes lower than £26,000 per annum (in which 41% to 43% of young people were concerned). A similar pattern of findings is evident in relation to parental occupational class. Young people who lived in a ‘Higher Managerial or Professional’ households were less likely to be concerned (23%) than young people who lived in lower occupational class households. Young people who lived with a degree-educated parent were far less likely to be concerned (22%) than other young people.

By deploying multivariate regression analysis, Access for All was able to identify a number of factors which displayed a statistically significant relationship with a young person feeling deterred from university by the cost, even when multiple other factors had been controlled for. These key factors included:

  • Ethnicity; 
  • Parental education; 
  • Parental earnings; 
  • Parental occupation 
  • Believing that a degree means a better paid job in later life; 
  • Believing that owing money is wrong; 
  • Reporting that most friends are planning to go to university; 
  • Believing that “people like me” don’t go to university;
  • Feeling informed about financial support;
  • Certain ‘funding plans’ for university, including expecting to borrow from a bank, or receiving money from a parent;
  • How involved a parent feels in their child’s school life;
  • Whether a parent expects their child to go to university.

Tracking young peoples’ subsequent decisions, Access for All found that 36% of those who had previously expressed concern at the cost of university ultimately decided against university in the final instance, compared to just 16% of those that had not expressed concerns about cost.

Among those factors that predicted ‘concerned’ young people deciding against university, after controlling for all other factors, statistically significant associations were found for: 

  • Ethnicity;
  • Parental education;
  • Parental earnings;
  • Having friends who applied to university;
  • Feeling informed about financial support;
  • Receiving information and advice on university from a teacher.

The team

Katy Haigh

Policy Researcher
Universities UK

Daniel Hurley

Dan Hurley

Policy Manager
Universities UK

Fiona Waye

Fiona Waye

Policy Manager
Universities UK


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