Most parents want their children to go to university, and there is still a belief that going to university is a worthwhile experience which increases earning potential and broadens career options. However, recent graduates are less inclined to believe that their degree gives them advantages in life, according to new research from TNS BMRB.

The TNS BMRB monthly Public Opinion Monitor found that 78% of parents of under-18s want their children to have a university education, rising to 81% in higher social grades and 88% among those living in the Midlands.

POM July

They overwhelmingly believe that university will improve their children’s job prospects (69%). More than a third are concerned that it will be too expensive, but fewer than one in five believe that university is “a waste of money” and 60% agree that the benefits of a university education outweigh the costs.

In general, graduates are positive about the impact of university on their lives, but those who graduated in the last 10 years are significantly more sceptical than those who graduated 10 or more years ago.

Graduates in general think that university was worthwhile, giving them more career options (67%) and increasing their earnings potential (55%). But among those who graduated in the last 10 years, those figures fell to 60% and 50% respectively.

A sizeable minority of all graduates (30%) think they would have been better off doing an apprenticeship or vocational qualification, rising to 44% among those graduating in the last decade, with only 25% of this group disagreeing with the idea.

The shift in attitudes towards education is taking place against huge changes in the job market and in student funding. It is likely that the universities will have to work harder to convince young people of the benefits that a degree can bring.

The survey also showed significant discontent with the care available for older people – only 18% agreed that the care provision in their area was good with 36% disagreeing. A third (34%) of people are concerned about the costs of caring for their parents in old age, with concern highest among the younger age groups.

Notes to editors
Detailed tables for this survey can be found below. Please treat with caution those figures where the sample size – the unweighted base – is less than 50.

TNS Omnibus interviewed a representative sample of 1,232 people between 18th and 22nd July 2013.

All interviews were conducted as online self-completion. The data is weighted to match population totals for age, sex, social grade, working status, presence of children, 2010 voting patterns and region.

TNS BMRB is a leading provider of specialist social research, offering insight into public policy to government and not-for-profit clients. Delivering a range of approaches including bespoke proprietary research and consultancy, random probability survey capabilities, as well as social marketing and polling, our work informs policy makers across national and local Government at the highest level. TNS BMRB forms part of the Kantar group of companies.

TNS BMRB – Understanding society, public services and change. For more information please visit us on our website at

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Laura Chatterton
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