Call to embed careers advice in primary schools to help raise aspirations
YOUNG people are unintentionally blocking themselves from degree choices, a report has found.
Admissions service Ucas said a fifth of university students believed they would have made better choices if they had better access to higher quality advice in school.
As a result, one in five could not study a degree subject that interested them because they did not have the right subjects to progress.
This was most apparent for degree courses including medicine and dentistry, maths, economics or languages, which require applicants to have taken a specific set of `fixed' qualifications.
The latest Ucas Where Next? report highlights the impact of qualification and subject choice at school on students' future pathways.
It also recommends ways students can be better supported to make fully informed choices.
This includes early engagement in careers guidance, with only one in three saying they understood higher education was an option for them at primary school.
Well-off students are 1.4 times more likely to think about higher education in primary school than their disadvantaged peers.
They are also less likely to see a door closed to them through their choice of subjects.
The report found that 83 per cent choose their degree subject before their preferred university or college.
Almost all (99 per cent) said their choices were influenced by how much they enjoyed the subject.
But more than a quarter would make different GCSE choices now they know what their degree course involves.
One in four said their parents were their biggest help in determining their choice of degree, and many follow similar pathways.
For example, students with a parent in farming are nearly 20 times more likely to study veterinary science, agriculture or related subjects.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said no student should unknowingly close the door to their career aspirations.
"We know that early engagement raises aspiration. The data showing that disadvantaged students tend to consider the prospect of higher education later than their more advantaged peers clearly demonstrates the need to embed careers information, advice and guidance within primary schools and early secondary years to raise aspirations from an early age," she said.
"Importantly, the report does not say students have made the wrong choice - it remains, above all, a highly individual and nuanced decision.
"Instead, it says that students should know the consequence of each and every choice they make along their journey. From the analysis, we see that some students would have made different decisions had they had better careers information, advice and guidance.
"We have recommended a series of ways for this to be achieved, including providing digital access to the full range of post-secondary opportunities."