How much do your parents know about university, loans and accommodation?

Mun and teenage daughter talking

Prospective students rely on parents' advice, but they may not have up-to-date info

Mums and dads need more support to help their children make good decisions about university, recent YouGov research has found.

According to the study, parents of children aged between 11 and 18 do not have the necessary knowledge to advise tomorrow’s students on topics including loans, satisfaction scores, and living at home while studying.

The findings come as a new “no nonsense” website is launched today to help students and parents make sense of the information available about university, student finance and accommodation options.

Discover Uni is managed by a partnership of UK-wide higher education funders and regulators, including the Office for Students (OfS), and aims to “radically simplify and streamline” the decision-making process while being an “impartial, authoritative” source of data, advice and guidance.

Misconceptions

A poll carried out in August 2019 found that, despite 74% of parents across the UK saying they feel confident in supporting their children to make decisions about university, there are common misconceptions around key issues facing prospective students, such as loan repayment terms and satisfaction scores.

When asked to choose from a list of options that came closest, 82% of more than 1,000 parents surveyed overestimated or did not know how much a graduate with a £50,000 loan from student finance and a salary of £30,000 would repay on a weekly basis. The correct figure is £32.06 per month but 29% of parents said it was £150 or more.

Also, while graduates now don’t have to repay their student loan unless their salary is at least £25,725, 30% of parents thought it was £20,665 or lower.

Most parents underestimated how satisfied undergraduate students are with their courses. A third of parents thought it was 56% or lower, but in fact 83% of students who responded to the National Student Survey in 2018 were satisfied with their course.

More than a quarter (29%) of parents thought that the proportion of students who live at home while studying at a university in their local area was 10% or less. In fact, 19% of students live with their parents while studying.

Guidance for disadvantaged students

Parents are prospective students’ most important source of information about university, closely followed by teachers, according to polling by YouthSight for the Office for Students (OfS) last year, so it’s vital that parents are well-informed.

The research also found that young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to struggle with negative preconceptions of higher education, like the likelihood of getting a place being dependent on your school or family background. The site includes targeted guidance to help them understand the diversity of options available and the diversity of the student population.

These students were also most concerned with finding out what university was really like, so the site offers case studies people who have already been through the process, as well as linking them up with other resources where they can talk to students like them.

'Life-changing' decisions

Sir Michael Barber, chair of the OfS, said: “In too many cases, a lack of access to good information – or lack of support to navigate the complexity of the information that is available – stands between a talented person and a university education that could change their life.

He added: “It is crucial that everyone considering their options for education or training seeks reliable advice and guidance. These are big decisions. But whether you’re not yet sure if you want to go to university at all or you already know what you want to study – and everything in between – this new site will include the right information for you at the right time.

“It’s a no nonsense, official and independent resource that cuts through the clutter to tell students what they really need to know.”

A hub of information

Discover Uni allows users to search and compare information from official datasets about higher education courses available in the UK. It includes guidance on factors students might want to consider in choosing a course, and information focused on improving understanding of the student finance system. 

The site also acts as a hub, curating and signposting to other quality resources on key topics for applicants and their parents, like living costs and exploring career options.

It is managed by the Office for Students (OfS) in partnership with the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland (DfENI), Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and Scottish Funding Council (SFC).