Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Pupils 'misunderstand fees system'

Many young people do not understand the tuition fees system, a poll claims

The majority of young people do not understand the university tuition fees system, a poll suggests.

The Sutton Trust said there is "widespread misunderstanding" among schoolchildren of how most people pay for university.

The survey comes just days before the Government is expected to publish a White Paper on higher education, setting out their reforms for the sector. MPs agreed in December to triple tuition fees to £9,000 from 2012, with graduates starting to pay back loans once they are earning £21,000.

But the poll found that just a third (31%) of youngsters know that the main way to pay for their degrees is to borrow from the Government and pay it back after graduation once they are earning a certain wage.

The survey, conducted by the Sutton Trust, asked almost 3,000 11 to 16-year-olds who they believe is "the main source of the money to pay for university".

More than a fifth (21%) said the family of the student pays, while more than one in 10 (11%) said the student pays with money they earn before and during their studies.

Around one in 12 (8%) did know that usually the money is borrowed from the Government, but thought it is paid back as soon as a student graduates, regardless of how much money they earn. Some 6% simply said that the Government pays for higher education. And a fifth (20%) said they did not know.

Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "Our survey reveals widespread misunderstanding of the new fees system among school pupils - but once again demonstrates high levels of aspirations to go to university among 11 to 16-year-olds of all backgrounds who realise education is increasingly the key to future employment.

"I am very concerned that these early aspirations will not be translated into reality for far too many of our young people from low and middle-income households when they are confronted with the prospect of £9,000 fees and debts on graduation of over £40,000."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The Government is committed to making sure no one is put off going to university because they do not understand how the new system works. It is encouraging that close to a third of the 11 to 16-year-olds questioned in the survey already understand that going to university will continue to depend on ability - not the ability to pay."

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