Actress Michelle Collins says she regrets not going to university
Four fifths of parents who did not go to university regret it, a poll for the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills suggests.
The survey of 1,421 parents without a degree found 16% believed they would have a better career if they had one.
A total of 13% said they would have better prospects for the future.
And 80% said they intended to encourage their child to go university, with 31% saying they wanted to help their children reach the goals they did not.
The prospect of a good career was the key factor for more than two thirds (70%) of the parents polled, while a secure future for their children was critical to almost half (45%).
A separate survey of 1,500 mature students found three quarters regretted not going to university after school.
Of those surveyed, 17% felt they had missed out on life opportunities and 16% had ended up in jobs they didn't enjoy.
Almost a third (31%) felt that higher education was vital for getting a new career, while more than a quarter (28%) said they needed more qualifications to boost their existing careers.
More than a quarter (28%) said their main reason for going to university was the potential to earn more money.
The two polls were conducted to mark the launch of a national awareness campaign to communicate the benefits of higher education to parents and their children.
Support from actress
Actress Michelle Collins, who now regrets not going to university, is supporting the government's campaign.
She said: "I would have liked to go to university straight from school to have more exposure to a cross section of people as well as to study and enhance my existing career options.
"If I had gone on to higher education, I would have studied classics to help me understand a more varied amount of acting roles.
"I always remember my mother encouraging me to go to university but I didn't listen to her, which I now seriously regret.
"I will certainly be encouraging my child to go into higher education when they get to that age."
Higher Education Minister David Lammy said studying for a university qualification could broaden an individual's horizons "in new and exciting ways".
"Getting more people into higher education has never been so important for our country's future, and having a more educated and skilled workforce is something from which we will all benefit."