Middle-income families will 'shun universities'

Middle-income families will shun universities for their children once fees rise to up to £9,000-a-year, according to research published today.

A study of more than 500 middle income parents revealed the majority – 51 per cent – said they could no longer afford to send their child to university.

In addition, just under one in three (31 per cent) believed higher education was simply not worth the investment.

Nearly three-fifths believed a university education was less valuable than it was a decade ago, said the study, carried out by the education charity, Edge, which campaigns to raise the status of vocational education. For the research, middle-income families were defined as those earning between £15,000 and £40,000-a-year in London and £15,000 and £30,000 outside the capital.

Former Conservative Education Secretary Lord (Kenneth) Baker, who is chairman of Edge, predicted the popularity of universities would "stall" over the next decade. In an interview with The Independent, he said: "So many youngsters aren't getting jobs when they're graduates, I think we're going to see a change in attitudes among 18-year-olds."More firms would follow the example set by Deloittes and start hiring 18-year-olds

Lord Baker said he believed the government should have limited loans to cover fees to a maximum of £6,000.

Universities would have been allowed to charge more but many would have thought twice about it because they would find it difficult to fill places.

However, he admitted it was "water under the bridge now".