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  • One in five students say they won’t go to university if they can’t start on campus in September
  • Over half have changed their plans for next year due to anxiety about making plans during the current times
  • Universities have all to play for as 37% are still unsure whether they will start their new higher education in September as planned

More than one in five (21%) believe the start of degree courses should be moved to January so that students can be taught as normal, according to the findings by MyUniChoices, which matches prospective students’ qualities with suggested degree courses.

However – there is all to play for universities as more than a third (37%) haven’t made up their minds what they’ll do yet. This is partly because of a severe lack of information – a staggering 89% say school or college is not giving them the advice they need so parents have to be careers advisors. Half (50%) say UCAS isn’t offering them the information they need to be able to make the right decisions. Almost one in ten (8%) have changed their course since the outbreak of the coronavirus and the same number have changed their choice of uni.

Almost a fifth (19%) believe virtual courses don’t offer value for money as the online experience is just not as good as face-to-face sessions, the survey of 1,000 18-year-olds reveals. Only 7% say they will definitely defer but 14% say they may go to university a different year. More than half – 55% – say they will go to university as planned. Around two thirds (76%) say they are still considering going into HE at some point, according to the research conducted by MyUniChoices.

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Almost one in five (17%)  are having to change their plans for going to university because family finances have been negatively impacted by the virus.

The impact of coronavirus on school leavers has been far-reaching. One in five, (20%), say they have suffered from mental health issues as a result of the fallout from the virus, including not doing A levels and having to decide whether they want to go to university while social distancing measures are in place.

Half of those surveyed (52%) say they feel anxious about making a decision about their future at the moment, almost a third (28%) changed their plans because they are uncertain about the economy. More than a third (38%) are worried predicted grades will have an impact on their future, one in five (18%) are worried if they defer it’ll be harder next time to apply.

More than a quarter (26%) said it wasn’t not fair not to sit exams, and a similar number (24%) not fair to have predicted grades.  Almost a quarter (25%) would go into HE if they knew which course would best suit their interests.

Dr Charles Johnson, Chief Psychometrics advisor for MyUniChoices, said:

“In common with most other people, young people are suffering from a huge degree of uncertainty about the future and this is greatly affecting their immediate plans for what to do after leaving school. Those choosing to go to University recognise they are making a choice which will shape their lives for more than just the years that they study, so making the right choice matters.

It’s vital that when students choose to go away, they do so with confidence that the time they will spend studying will be in a course and an environment which help them grow and thrive.

Whether they plan to go away this year or next, it is only right that students pause, take stock and check that the course they want to do is the one which is right for them. Taking a small amount of time to reflect and reassess now is the best way of avoiding making the wrong choice which can be costly from a financial, career and mental health perspective.”

More than two thirds (67%) have struggled to find a routine since Covid began due to having no school and in most cases no school work.

Professor Alan Smithers, Director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said:

“The fact that one in five of those planning to go to university won’t go if they can’t start on campus spells financial freefall for the universities, particularly the less popular  There were already difficulties due to the drop in the number of 18-year-olds and the travel problems of overseas students, but coronavirus could be the final straw.

We are likely to see a significant reorganisation of the sector. Coronavirus has hit this year’s school leavers hard. The sudden shut down of their education has left them very uncertain of the future.

Three-quarters of those originally intending to go to university hope to do so at some point, but harbour doubts about this year.  But universities that can weather the storm will emerge stronger for the experience. The students who go to university this autumn will have to rediscover the learning habit.  They report that during the lock-down they have lost motivation, with few reading, and most sleeping-in, watching TV and films, and playing on games consoles.”

Top ten lockdown activities for school leavers (age 18):

1 Sleeping in (68%)
2 Listening to music (67%)
3 Watching TV (63%)
4 Watching films (58%)
5 Going on play stations (52%)
6 Facetiming friends (49%)
7 Playing games on phones (47%)
8 Going for a walk (49%)
9 Reading (31%)
10 Cooking (24%)

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