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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
University a goal for many pupils
students outside
Pupils see university as a passport to a good job
Most state school pupils want to go on to university because they see it as a stepping stone to a good job, a survey says.

Nearly seven out of 10 (68%) children questioned said they were likely or very likely to go into higher education.

The study was carried out for The Sutton Trust, which aims to help poorer children receive a good education.

Of those who planned to go to university, 86% said they thought this would help them get a good job.


Only 11% of the 11 to 16 year olds questioned thought they would not go to university, while 17% had not decided.

Girls were most enthusiastic. A total of 73% said they wanted to go, compared with 64% of boys.

Black and Asian children were more likely than white children to say they wanted to continue studying.

Despite these high intentions, many students fall by the wayside and leave school at 16

Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust
Among white children, 34% said they would go on, compared with 41% of black and Asian pupils.

The findings surprised the founder of the Sutton Trust Peter Lampl.

"Schoolchildren are much more ambitious than we commonly suppose them to be," he said.

"We had no idea that so many would have set their sights on university."

Lower aspirations

The government is committed to increasing the proportion of children going to university.

By 2010, it wants half of those under 30 to have had expereince of higher education.

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, welcomed the survey's results.

She said: "It is good news that many of our schoolchildren are aiming to go to university.

Estelle Morris
Poorer children need to be targeted, says Estelle Morris
"This government has successfully raised standards in secondary schools and is creating a larger pool of students with the right qualifications to stay on in education.

"However, we still know that young people from poorer social classes have lower aspirations than those from better off backgrounds and they still need to be targeted."

'Turned off'

The Sutton Trust is calling on universities to do more to encourage talented children from poorer backgrounds.

Peter Lampl said: "Despite these high intentions still too many students fall by the wayside and leave school at 16.

"This survey shows how important it is for the universities to reach out to them before this happens."

That view was backed by David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

He said: "Too many bright pupils from deprived backgrounds are still likely to be turned off by family attitudes or by low expectations.

"White boys, and pupils from non-selective schools in selective areas, also appear to be less enthusiastic.

"It is absolutely critical that universities, supported by schools, work hard to turn around these attitudes if we are to release the talents of bright students from disadvantaged homes."

Debt worries

The reason why many pupils from poorer backgrounds do not go to university is fear of debt, according to the National Union of Students (NUS).

Owain James, the president of the NUS, said it was encouraging that so many young people saw themselves going to university.

"However, the big worry is that so many of them will not go on to fulfil that dream," he said.

"The NUS believes that the current levels of student debt are putting off thousands of potential students from even applying to university."

For the survey, researchers questioned 2,670 state school pupils from England and Wales, aged between 11 and 16.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Education
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