More parents want their children to choose local universities

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University will no longer provide the first taste of freedom for thousands of students in the future, a poll published today suggests.

A survey of more than 2,500 parents by the pollsters YouGov reveals nearly 20 per cent have asked their children to pick a local university - so they can still live at home. About 4 per cent are even considering sending non-working partners back into employmentto help their offspring with debts.

The findings show parents believe they will have to pay for the cost of debt incurred at university.The Government is abolishing up-front fees when it introduces annual top-up fees of up to £3,000 from 2006.

Ministers are hoping that the promise to abolish the payment of fees in advance - which could still be brought in before the next election - would take some of the sting out of the Conservatives' pledge to abolish tuition fees if elected.

The sample also showed that 13 per cent of parents were contemplating working longer hours, 9 per cent seeking a better job and 6 per cent remortgaging their homes.

Worryingly for the Government's aim of getting 50 per cent of all youngsters into higher education by 2010, 16 per cent of parents said they would advise their children to get a job on leaving school.

David Norman, managing director of Insight Investments, for whom the survey was conducted, said: "It is parents that will carry the true burden of rising student debt."

* Damian Green, the Conservatives' Education spokesman, is being asked to give evidence to the inquiry into higher education funding being run by the Commons Select Committee on Education. The move follows the party's pledge to abolish tuition fees.