Prospective university students are re-considering their options

For immediate release 26 August 2011

Most pupils, who were planning to attend university from September 2012 onwards, are re-considering their plans in light of the increase in tuition fees [1], a survey conducted in June by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has found. 

NFER’s new omnibus survey of secondary school pupils found that 15 per cent of a sample of 433 pupils in years 10-12 in England [2] who were planning to go to university, are now not going to go in light of the increase in tuition fees. Nineteen per cent of pupils plan to apply only to those universities where the annual fees are less than the maximum of £9,000 per year. Seventeen per cent of pupils are considering alternatives to university in England such as studying at Further Education colleges or studying abroad and just over a quarter of pupils said they would only apply for local universities so they can live at home.  Only 21 per cent of pupils said their plans to attend university will not change.

There was a noticeable difference between the responses of pupils from different backgrounds, with 43 per cent of pupils from the most affluent backgrounds [3] saying their plans were not going to change compared with only 21 per cent of all pupils surveyed.

Maria Charles, project director for NFER’s omnibus surveys, said: “Until the applications come in for university studies from September 2012 it will be hard to know the real impact of the increase in fees on young people’s choices. However, it seems likely that fewer young people will apply for university and that the pattern of applications will change. It remains to be seen what the longer term implications will be.


For more information contact: Jane Parrack, NFER Marketing Communications Manager, on 01753 637245, email: For more information on NFER omnibus surveys visit: /ppv

Notes for Editors:

The research is based on the responses to the following question

Table C10

In light of an increase in tuition fees for university from September 2012, which of the following statements apply to your future plans about attending university?


I was planning to go to university but now, because of the increased tuition fees, I am not going to go


I will only apply for universities where the annual fees are less than the maximum of £9,000


I will only apply for universities that are charging the higher fees because I think they are better


I will only apply for local universities where I can live at home


I am now considering alternatives to university like studying at FE colleges or studying abroad


The increase in fees will not change my plans to go to university


No response


N =


More than one answer could be given so percentages may sum to more than 100.
A filter question: all those in one of years 10-12 inclusive who were planning to go to university.

A total of 433 respondents answered at least one item in this question.
Source: NFER Secondary Pupil Voice Omnibus Survey June 2011

The NFER is the UK’s largest independent provider of research, assessment and information services for education, training and children’s services.


1)From September 2012, many universities will be charging the maximum fees of £9,000 per year. The estimated sector average as calculated by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) is £8,393, reducing to £7,793 when all financial support from universities and colleges (including the National Scholarship Programme, designed to benefit individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds as they enter higher education from Autumn 2012) is taken into account. Source:[accessed 12 August 2011]

2) NFER’s Secondary Pupil Voice omnibus survey of 1139 secondary school pupils was conducted in June 2011, was representative of Educationacorn categories. For more information see /ppv

3) Educationacorn group G: Affluent Establishment. Educationacorn is a classification of census output areas and the postcodes (of households) contained within them.