Higher education

Paper summary: Higher education

Investing in the future? Attitudes to University

Higher Education finance has been a politically charged issue since Labour decided to introduce tuition fees in 1998. With the raising of the cap on the top rate of fees to £9,000,
this controversy has certainly not dissipated in the years since the increase was first announced in 2010. This paper examines public attitudes in England to higher education,
exploring views on student finance (fees, loans and grants), the perceived fairness of the
current system, and how views on these issues vary across different social and political

Most people accept that some students should pay fees

Eleven per cent of people in England said all students should pay fees, and a further 67% that at least some should.

  • Just 21% were completely opposed to charging fees.
  • There has been little change in the level of support for charging fees since 2004.
  • Views in Scotland and England are very similar on this issue, in spite of the fact that Scottish students do not pay fees to attend Scottish universities.

People do not want a reduction in university places

Just 12% think opportunities for young people to go on to higher education should be reduced.

  • However, support for expanding places is lower than it once was – 39% think opportunities should be increased, compared with between 44% and 52% from 1983 to 2003.
  • And 2 in 5 (43%) think there are too many graduates in the UK labour market.

Most support means tested grants

Sixty per cent agree that it is fair that children from less well-off families get grants to attend
university, whereas other students may have to take out loans. Just 25% thought such a system
was unfair.

  • A majority (57%) believe that a young person from a well-off background would be more likely to take up a university place than someone from a less well-off background.
  • Those on low incomes are more likely than those on higher incomes to feel that students should not be expected to take out loans (43% compared with 30%).

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