One in two school leavers reconsidered going to University due to cost of living

15th August 2023

A new survey from The Open University (OU) has found that nearly one in two (49%) have reconsidered going to university in the last year, because of the rising cost of living. Nearly a third (31%) of school leavers believe university is not affordable, while a fifth (20%) are still unsure if they will go to university this autumn.

To avoid the huge costs associated with going to traditional universities, nearly three-quarters of school leavers (71%) would consider distance learning as a viable alternative, with just under 2 in 5 (39%) now wanting to have the ability to earn while they learn. A further 29%, are seeking a better balance between their education and other life commitments. Nearly a quarter (23%) want to live at home, rather than moving away to university.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Professor Tim Blackman said “The fact that the cost of living crisis is forcing school leavers to reassess their higher education choices is very disappointing. At the Open University, we believe everyone should have equal opportunity to higher education. Our students can study flexibly through distance learning and consider employment options so they can learn and earn. A growing number of young students are realising that the OU is a great and affordable way to study for a high quality degree.”

Iona Bain, an expert on young people’s finance said “It’s no wonder half of all school leavers now have doubts about going to university amid soaring tuition and living costs, mass disruption to education during lockdown, and a huge degree of uncertainty about what the world will look like in the future. When I speak to young people about their hopes and dreams, one theme comes up time and again – the desire to achieve financial independence.”

“That’s why the next generation is willing to embrace alternatives to full-time campus-based education as they look for ways to earn while they learn, gain experience in the jobs market, and get a head start in the real world. Now is the time to have a serious conversation about whether full-time university education is right for everyone, and whether more young people would benefit from the flexibility and working opportunities offered by remote learning without having to forgo a high-quality education. For many young people, this could be a real – and rare – win-win scenario.”

Considering these concerns, findings published by the Cebr found that OU students in England could save up to £6,555 a year and would accumulate less debt when compared to students at traditional brick universities.

The Cebr polled 1,720 students between the ages 18-24 in England, that OU students can anticipate a significant 61% increase in earnings, equivalent to a weekly uplift of £136 (through being able to earn an income due to more flexible study arrangements). 85% of those surveyed thought switching to flexible learning would improve their mental health and wellbeing whilst 72% thought it would improve their engagement with their course content.