Education & Family

Early university ambitions pay off, survey suggests

Oxford gargoyle
Image caption Oxford is one of the most selective universities

Children who know at 10 that they want to go to university are twice as likely to go to a selective one than those who decide at 16, a survey says.

A study of 16,000 students suggests the younger they decide, the more likely they are to attend a university with tough entrance requirements.

The university admissions service asked students what motivated their choices and what had deterred them.

It found the most advantaged youngsters were most focused on university.

Those from the poorest backgrounds were least focused on higher education.

The University and College Admissions Services (Ucas) surveyed students who had applied to undergraduate courses, whether they ended up attending them or not.

'Reset the barometer'

Some 35% of those who attended selective institutions knew that they would apply to higher education before they left primary school.

This compared with 13% of those attending these universities who had decided to apply between the ages of 16 and 19.

Mary Curnock Cook, Ucas chief executive said: "This report is clear - the earlier children set their sights on university, the more likely they are to go.

"We need to reset the barometer reading for progression to HE to a much earlier age - 10 or younger.

"Having a focus on university helps provide the rationale for working hard and doing well at GCSEs, which is the strongest predictor of success in higher education."

Fitting in

The research also looked at why young people had decided against applying to the universities that are the toughest to get into.

The 6,500 applicants who had not made an application to these were quizzed about their reasons for not doing so.

Nearly half (49%) said the grade requirements were too high, 41% said the university did not offer the course they wanted to study and a fifth said it would have been too expensive to live there.

Some 8% said they felt they would not fit in with the other students.

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