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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Debt fears unsettle would-be students
Graduates will chalk up debts of at least 10,000
Most school students doing advanced studies intend to go on to higher education, a bank survey suggests - but fear of debt could be putting many off.

A fifth of those who have decided against doing a degree said they could not afford to go, up 6% on last year, according to NatWest Money Matters.

More than four in 10 of the 2,000 sixth formers, graduates and undergraduates questioned were having second thoughts about university because of concerns about the cost.

A separate survey suggests that parental opinion about which university to choose is a bigger influence on teenagers in state schools than those in private schools.

Gap year earnings

The main motivation for those who told NatWest they had decided to go straight into work with their A-level results was that they wanted to start earning.

More than a third said they would earn more in less time by doing so.

The survey also showed gap years continuing to grow in popularity - one in three school leavers planned to take one, up 9% on 2000.

The two findings are not unconnected: The proportion saying they would use the year out to earn money to pay for university had gone up from 31% last year to 48%.

Other recent surveys have put typical accumulated student debt upon graduation at between 10,000 and 12,000.

Ann-Marie Blake, head of student banking at NatWest, said going to university was a "financial challenge" but students could look forward to a well-paid job at the end of their course.

The Money Matters survey covers England, Scotland and Wales.

Parental advice

The survey of influences on university choice was done by recruitment advertising and education marketing agency Barkers.

It suggests that 48.5% of independent school pupils were influenced by their parents' views on which universities they should consider, rising to 56% in the case of comprehensive students and 60% for those at sixth form colleges.

Grammar school pupils were most likely to heed their parents' advice, with 61% saying they "listened carefully".

Students from ethnic minority backgrounds were much more likely to be influenced by their parents than white pupils.

While only 6.9% of white students said parental opinion was "very important", that rose to 23% for Indians, 28% for African-Caribbeans and 28% for those from Pakistani families.

The researchers said they were surprised and disappointed to find that would-be undergraduates could distinguish the old universities from the new ones - the former polytechnics.

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See also:

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