Choosing a university : the results of a longitudinal study using conjoint analysis
In 2012 a simulation of prospective students’ university choices was carried out by the authors using conjoint analysis to evaluate the utility associated with various university attributes. This paper presents the results of a follow-up study. The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a simulation based on conjoint analysis in the context of education and to explore the impact on actual student choice of the new full cost fee regime introduced in England in 2012. The results from the follow-up study demonstrated a high degree of consistency with the original simulation. Course and university reputation are far more important and fees are relatively unimportant. However, a key result was that patterns of utility for students with no family experience of university are significantly different from students whose parents did attend university in terms of utility related to entry qualifications, fees, and course and university reputation. The study suggests that the benefits of going to a highly rated university may be more under-valued in families that have no direct experience of higher education. In addition, whilst females are more significantly put off universities with low entry requirements, the qualitative attitudinal statements included in the follow-up study seem to indicate that so-called ‘softer’ factors may also influence their choice.