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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Parents 'influence' student choice
More young people are going to university than ever before
Parents are taking a hands-on interest in their children's choice of university, a survey suggests.

Some had asked to attend interviews, while one had offered to sit in on lectures as their child could not start a course on time.

Thirty-three heads of admissions responded to the survey by the Times Higher Education Supplement.

More than 80% said families were having a greater impact. This often continued once children were at university.


Some parents asked for progress reports and grades, causing dilemmas over student confidentiality.

One head of admissions said: "We've had parents wanting to go into interviews with offspring, phoning and pretending to be offspring, and in one case offering to attend for the first six weeks of term when the offspring was unable to."

A spokesman for Leicester University's medical school said there had been a 50-fold increase in the volume of inquiries from parents during the last 14 years.

Several respondents said the rising cost of higher education seemed to increase involvement.

Fees for full-time students in England currently stand at 1,125 a year, with living costs on top of that.

Following the passing of the Higher Education Bill, universities will be able to charge up to 3,000 a year from autumn 2006.

The government says this will help fund its aim of getting up to 50% of young people into higher education by 2010.

But unlike now it will not have to be paid "up front". Instead, students can cover their bills with a loan, to be repaid once they graduate.

Warwick University spokesman Peter Dunn said: "Parents' interest in where their children are going has ramped up massively and it's no surprise that that's the case, as they are putting more and more money into higher education.

"There are also books, computers and other add-ons to consider, making university more of an investment.

"But we would be horrified if the parents tried to influence the young person to do something other than what they want to do. They would find it rebounding on them big time."

We asked for your opinions on parental involvement in university choice. Here are some of your responses

I had a friend at university with "involved" parents. Although she used to laugh with us all about how they would ask "When are the end of term reports coming through?" I slowly saw her parents take over her university experience and add a lot of stress to her first year. I think it's mostly involving offspring who are the first generation to go to university, who have parents who don't understand that, despite footing a large bill, it is about independence and learning as an adult. It's a huge step and parental involvement is still important, but too much can cause a lot of distress and disrupt student life.
Lee Hayes, London, UK

I'm working towards a PhD and my mum has been so involved in the research that she's now doing an MA in a related subject herself!
Helen, Bristol

If my parents had their way I'd be crippled with student debt right now. Luckily at 18 I had the right to refuse to go to university as they were insisting. Of course, it meant finding my own place to live but without a degree I've still outperformed every single person I went to school with in my career, without the massive loans to show for it. Too many parents are meddling with their children's futures by trying to make their choices for them. If we're old enough to vote, then we're old enough to make our own decisions.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK

I have actively "helped" all three of my children go to university. With massive debts, employability has to be one of the main reasons. The attitude of acceptance of debt without consequence is totally wrong. I love my children and want the best start for them. Paul Fairlie
Paul Fairlie, Bridlington

I am currently a PhD student but as an undergraduate I think the best way to avoid these problems is to got to a university that is a good distance away from you home. This is good for the student, as it forces them to grow up and become far more independent, and is better preparation for the real world.
Mark, Bath

When I was choosing universities, my parents got out a map of Britain, drew a circle with my home (Birmingham) in the centre and told me that I could go anywhere within this circle. This left me with Birmingham, Aston, University of Central England and Warwick. They also offered me a bribe of an Aston Villa season ticket if I went to Birmingham University and stayed at home. I rebelled and went to Nottingham to study psychology (also not what my parents wanted) and now I work there as a researcher in neuropsychology.

These choices have such an impact on a person's life, they have to be allowed to make it themselves. There is no way I would be the person I am now if I had appeased my parents and I know that they would regret that as much as I would.
Susie, Nottingham

Most people study for A-levels and their parents take an interest in grades at this stage; perhaps the same is starting to happen with degrees as they are increasingly seen as an expected stage of education. Personally, I paid back all of the money my parents lent to me during my recent degree, and think the experience of independence taught me some useful lessons.
Paul, Bristol, UK

My parents were both firm believers in university being a great way to gain independence. I was told that on no account should I go to my local university, or any university within commuting distance. That I should take it as an opportunity to leave home, live with new people and make my own choices and mistakes. They take an interest in what I'm doing, but they leave me to my own devices. Which works for all of us.
Sam, London

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