University is Not Just for Young People: Working Adults' Perceptions of, and Orientation to, Higher Education

Pollard E, Bates P, Hunt W, Bellis A | Research Report 806 | Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills | Mar 2008

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This study explored the attitudes and intentions towards higher education (HE) amongst working adults in England.

The research involved 1,401 individuals in a 20-minute telephone survey, and was restricted to those aged between 22 and 55 with no university-level qualification.

Findings included:

  • Working adults had a positive view of HE. Despite having decided not to go to university in the past, attitudes to HE were remarkably positive amongst our group of working adults, and this represented a change over the past decade or so.
  • Three in ten working adults hoped to go into HE. There was an interest in HE amongst working adults: 30 per cent of our group of respondents would consider applying to university at some point in the future.
  • HE improves career prospects. Working adults tended to have a mainly instrumental attitude to HE and thought it would or could help them in their careers, helping them to develop their career, change the type of work they did and earn more money.

The report draws on these conclusions to identify six steps which could encourage and/or support participation in HE amongst working adults.