Students need more than a fact sheet to make sensible university choices

Press Releases

28 Jun 2011

Reaction and comment issued today by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), in response to the launch of the new White Paper on Higher Education by Universities minister David Willetts.

Further interview or comment from senior IES spokespeople can be arranged on the contact details below.

The Government’s new White Paper on Higher Education promotes consumer choice among potential students by giving them more information on which to base their decision-making.

In this brave new world potential students are likely to be bombarded with information. The proposed Key Information Set (KIS) will help by providing reliable data on a consistent basis to help students decide where to study, although much of the information provided eg about job prospects is historical rather than forward looking and any information sheet is not a substitute for actually visiting the potential university to get a good feel for the place.

However, research at the IES on student choices show the decision about where to go tends to be taken after deciding whether to go to university in the first place, and then what to study.

Emma Pollard, IES Senior Research Fellow comments:

‘In the past many young people went to university as a matter of course, rather than making a positive decision. However, the consequences of making the wrong decision under the new regime will be severe, as students may spend up to £50,000 on an education experience they deem unsatisfactory. Therefore prospective students will not just need better information but also advice and guidance to help them make the right judgement.

‘The changes may lead to students delaying their decision to go to university or, when they do decide to go, wanting to ensure they get value for their money and may change courses or institutions part way through if they felt unhappy with their original decision.’


About Emma Pollard, Senior Research Fellow at IES

Emma is based in the Learning and Skills team and leads the Institute’s work on higher education. During her time at the Institute she has worked for both the Human Resource Management and the Employment Policy Research Groups providing her with a solid grounding in both consultancy and policy research. She has been researching education and employment issues since before joining the Institute in 1996, has been involved in a wide range of projects for employers, educational establishments, and policy bodies.

About IES

The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK’s leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market, and HR policy and practice.