The Open University (the OU) has commissioned a new survey of 18–19-year-olds in England which shows that nearly 1 in 2 (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.
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.”Professor Tim Blackman
Vice-Chancellor of The Open University
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 today by the Cebr reveal 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, revealing:
For me, the biggest benefit of the OU is that I can earn whilst I learn. With bills on the rise, I have friends who don’t know how they’re going to cope with the cost of living away from home. I was able to save almost £10k in the past year which allowed me to get my driving license and have more money to spend on fun activities.
I don’t think I’m missing out on a traditional university experience. I feel more independent because I’ve made a decision that suits my situation and will set me up for the future. The quality of education I’ve received has been great. The tutors at The Open University are on hand to help if you need additional support and the course has helped me secure a new role, which was aligned to my degree.”Kianna Graham
Business Management studentRead Kianna's story
The full Cebr report is available here.
To find out more about studying with The Open University, visit open.ac.uk. To start studying this October, the registration deadline is the 7th September 2023.
 The figure aggregates savings on tuition fees, potential earnings uplift due to the ability to work alongside studying, lower spending on essentials and considers the forfeiture of maintenance loans.