School leavers feel pressured to choose university over work by teachers and parents, survey claims

Two-thirds of respondents say teachers urged them to go into higher education

Grant Bailey
Thursday 10 January 2019 12:37 GMT
Only 11 per cent of students surveyed took part in an apprenticeship or trainee scheme after A-levels
Only 11 per cent of students surveyed took part in an apprenticeship or trainee scheme after A-levels (PA)

Students feel they are being pushed down the route of going to university, according to a survey of 1,500 recent school leavers which found two-thirds were urged to go into higher education by teachers, while almost six out of 10 said their parents wanted them to pick that option.

However, most respondents said their parents were supportive of whichever path they decided to follow.

But one in five did say their parents pushed “too hard” to pick further education.

The poll, carried out ahead of next week's deadline for UCAS applications also found seven in 10 kids asked their parents for advice on what to do with their lives. But only around one in eight followed the advice given to them when deciding on the next step.

“For many school leavers university remains entirely the correct option," said Rob Alder, head of business development for AAT, which commissioned the research. “However, it’s not the only one available and many may not realise that there are alternatives available, including high-quality apprenticeships and trainee schemes which can unlock the door to a long and successful career.

He added: “In the accounting industry, for example, we see thousands of people each year who left school at 18, got a job and qualified a year earlier without the student debt that graduates built up.”

Of the school leavers who took part, 51 per cent went to university after finishing further education and 11 per cent took part in an apprentice or trainee scheme, while 15 per cent went straight into the world of work without doing any further training.

Asked to consider what they thought was most important to them when deciding what to do after secondary school, 42 per cent said they wanted to pursue a route which they were passionate about.

One in four prioritised making money above all else and 21 per cent wanted to do their best to follow a path which would provide them with a stable future.

One in five wished their parents had given them more in-depth advice and guidance about what to do after secondary school, but 10 per cent wished they had let them make up their own mind more.

The study also surveyed 500 parents of school leavers to uncover how they assessed their own involvement in their child’s decision and found that 56 per cent of parents recommended that their children continue on to university, and one in seven thought they would benefit from taking part in an apprenticeship.

Only one in eight thought their child would be served best by entering directly into the world of work and 72 per cent believed apprenticeship schemes and further training courses have become a more viable choice for school leavers in recent years.

“Many young people are about to submit their UCAS forms to apply for university; and that route will get a lot of attention," Mr Alder said. “Even with rising university fees adding a pressure on household finances, there is still only a minority of parents who are suggesting university alternatives to their children.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“It’s essential that each young person is given the right advice for their individual strengths, to give them the best chance of having a successful career, even if that means advising them that university might not be the best option for them.”

David Allison, CEO and Founder of said: “In recent years, we’ve seen more and more young people and parents question the value they get from a traditional degree. The fees and associated debt quickly rack up with a full time degree, and owing £50,000 before you get your first job should really encourage all young people to look at the options open to them.

“The good news is that there are now more alternatives than ever before to the ‘traditional’ university route with Accountancy and Professional Services leading the way.”


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in