University choice : which attributes matter when you are paying the full price?
This article presents the results from a longitudinal study of students’ choice of university in England. Students were surveyed initially when applying for university (Wave One) and then again when they were about to embark on their chosen course (Wave Two). The results from Wave Two demonstrated a high degree of consistency with the Wave One findings: course and university reputation are far more important and fees are relatively unimportant. However, a key result across both waves was that patterns of utility for students with no parental experience of university were significantly different from students whose parents had attended university. The utility associated with different levels of entry qualifications, of fees and of university and course reputation, differed between social groups. The study suggests that the benefits of going to a highly rated university may be undervalued in families that have no direct experience of higher education. In addition, whilst females are more significantly put off by 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.