The Ipsos MORI survey on behalf of the Sutton Trust of 11 to 16-year-olds, suggests that just 75% think it is important to enter higher education to do well. In 2013 the figure stood at 86%.
Released on A-level results day, the poll of 2381 children also showed 77% think they’re likely to go on to university after school, but almost half (46%) are worried about the cost.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “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 a number of cases they end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs.
“On the other hand, degree-level apprenticeships are almost non-existent with less than 10,000 available each year compared with over 300,000 university places.
“There is effectively no viable alternative to university.”
However those that have found an alternative are confident they’ve chosen wisely.
Blackburn College student Noah Belcham has just attained a triple distinction in his mechanical engineering diploma. That’s equivalent to 3 grade A’s at A-level.
It’s secured him a place on Rolls-Royce’s much coveted degree apprenticeship.
“Financially it makes far better sense,” he said.
“I have known for a few years that this is the career I want and by going straight to work for such a great company as an apprentice it really improves my future prospects.
Another Blackburn student, James Cocker, is predicted to get 3 A grade A-levels today. He’s also chosen to become an apprentice to continue his studies.
As many of his friends are starting freshers week, he’ll be starting work at local accountancy firm PM+M.
“I know there’s a chance I’m missing out on some of the social aspects of University,” he said.
“But I can easily visit my friends at Uni, and I’m already making new friends at work, so I’m definitely going to have a good social life.
“Plus, instead of being £60,000 in debt after three or four years, I might have earned a similar amount. So I’ll effectively be £120,000 better off.”
The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, which aims to improve social mobility through education.
It says it has now mounted a campaign “to dramatically increase the number of degree-level apprenticeships by working with government, for-profit and not-for profit organisations and universities.”