Project 1.4 Student Debt, Higher Education Participation, and Intermediate Skills Development

Project 1.4 Student Debt, Higher Education Participation, and Intermediate Skills Development

Project Name: Project 1.4 Student Debt, Higher Education Participation, and Intermediate Skills Development
Project Leader:
Claire Callender and Geoff Mason
Other Project Team Members:
Anna Rosso
Project 1.4 Student Debt, Higher Education Participation, and Intermediate Skills Development

Project Details

What are potential HE students’ attitudes to debt, HE, and the labour market?

The reforms of higher education (HE) student funding and increase in tuition fees to be introduced in 2012-13 have raised concerns that some potential HE students may be deterred from undertaking HE studies. Research undertaken in 2002-03 suggested that prospective students from lower social classes were the most likely to be deterred by fear of debt. The 2012-13 reforms raise the possibility that even larger groups of potential students may now be reluctant to enter HE. Our research explores whether current potential students’ attitudes to debt and HE have changed over time. It investigate how these attitudes affect decisions to enter HE or take  up alternative education and employment options such as studying part-time, taking intermediate-level qualifications, and  combining such studies with apprenticeship training. All these options are of interest to policy-makers because they may encourage more employers to provide financial support and/or apprentice training to well-qualified young people.

 

The following research questions are being addressed:
 

  • What are potential HE students’ attitudes to debt, HE, and the labour market, and how have these changed over time?
  • Do concerns over debt and the costs of HE influence potential students’ decisions about entering HE, where and what to study, and mode of study?
  • Do potential students perceive HE and its costs as debt accrual or as a beneficial investment?
  • Are potential HE students willing to study part-time while in employment and combine such studies with apprenticeship training?
  • Are potential students willing to aim initially for intermediate-level qualifications such as Foundation degrees and Higher Nationals rather than Bachelor degrees?
  • How do these perceptions, attitudes and aspirations vary by potential students’ socio-economic characteristics and previous academic attainments?
  • What are the implications of the findings for policy-makers concerning student funding and finance, widening HE participation and the development of an appropriate mix of higher and intermediate-level skills?

 

The study consists of:
 

  • A literature review to examine existing research relating to student debt, HE participation, and the demand for and supply of intermediate skills training combined with study towards HE qualifications.

 

  • A survey of potential HE students comprising a self-completion questionnaire distributed in class to final year students in schools and sixth form and FE colleges. The sample will comprise a mix of FE colleges, sixth form colleges and schools designed to maximize comparability with the findings of Callender’s 2003 study on student attitudes towards debt. 

 

  • Analysis of survey findings

 

  • A review of policy implications

 

 

It is hoped that the survey findings will be of interest to policy-makers, and will provide a basis for seeking co-funding for a later survey of employers’ willingness to support higher apprenticeships and employees studying part-time for HE qualifications. 

Research findings

Project publications:

 

Papers in peer reviewed journals

 

Callender, C and Mason, G. (2017) 'Does student loan debt deter higher education participation? New evidence from England'.  Annals of American Political and Social Science. Vol 671

 

Research among prospective UK undergraduates in 2002 found that some students, especially from low social classes, were deterred from applying to university because of fear of debt. This article investigates whether this is still the case today in England despite the changing higher education landscape since 2002. The article describes findings from a 2015 survey of prospective undergraduates and compares them with those from the 2002 study.

We find that:

  • students’ attitudes to taking on student loan debt are more favourable in 2015 than in 2002.
  • Debt averse attitudes remain much stronger among lower-class students than among upper-class students, and more so than in 2002.
  • However, lower-class students in 2015 did not have stronger debt averse attitudes than middle-class students.
  • Lower-class students are far more likely than students from other social classes to be deterred from applying to university because of fear of debt, even when taking account of GCSE results, and differences in gender, ethnicity and type of school attended.
  • Lower-class students’ fear of debt is more likely to deter them applying to university in 2015 than in 2002.

Debt averse attitudes seem more likely to deter lower-class students from applying to university in 2015 than in 2002, unlike young people from other social classes.

  

Conferences/Seminars Papers


1.           Callender and Mason - ‘Student debt: Does it deter HE participation?’ Department of Education, London, 14 February, 2017

 

2.           Callender - ‘Does student loan debt deter HE participation? ’University of Pennsylvania – conference on Student Debt – keynote, 26 Aug 2016

 

3.           Callender - ‘Student debt – initial findings’, Centre for Higher Education Studies UCL, Institute of Education, London - seminar paper,7 June 2016

 

4.           Callender and Mason - ‘Student debt: early findings’  - LLAKES, UCL, Institute of Education, London - seminar paper, 22 March, 2016

 

5.           Callender - Student debt, higher education participation, and intermediate skills development– Initial findings, Society for Research into Higher 
              Education, Annual Conference, Newport, 9 Dec, 2015