Press release

20 February 2012

Qualifications are no longer be-all and end-all for youngsters turned off by tuition fee hike says report

The recent rise in university tuition fees has caused significant numbers of young people to question the need for qualifications as a means of achieving their goals, according to a survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Since the government’s announcement in autumn 2010, secondary school pupils are one and a half times more likely to agree that they can ‘be successful without qualifications’, with children as young as 11 now considering alternatives to continued study. This means it is important that schools, parents and government agencies work together to ensure young people know what qualifications they need to meet their career aspirations, and prevent them disengaging from learning.

Over 45,000 pupils from a total of 118 secondary schools were asked questions as part of the NFER Attitude Surveys about the importance of qualifications to succeed in life, and whether they thought it was important to stay out of debt. The surveys were conducted on a termly basis between January 2010 and July 2011. The full analysis can be found here /publications/ASUR04

Following the announcement of higher tuition fees, the number of young people agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement ‘I think I could be successful without qualifications’ increases from 18 per cent to 26 per cent.

Commenting on the report Sarah Maughan, Director of Research at NFER, said: “This research provides more evidence as to the changing perceptions of young people towards qualifications and the role of external factors influencing their choices. We have previously found in our research that some 22 per cent of young people not in education and employment have simply taken the wrong path by making poor decisions rather than not being open to learning.

“There is a wealth of evidence to support the importance of good quality careers advice and this recent research suggests that children even from the age of 11 are beginning to consider their options. There are so many different career pathways that it is essential that young people are better informed about career options and the appropriate qualifications they need to achieve their aspirations.”


For more information contact: Sarah Fleming, Media & Communications Executive at NFER on 01753 637155 /


The NFER attitude surveys are an efficient way for any school to gather information on pupil, parent and staff attitudes to wellbeing issues and school satisfaction, helping to improve outcomes for pupils and build stronger relationships with parents and staff. For more information visit: /pps