Deterred by debt? Young people, schools and the escalating cost of UK higher education

Ceryn Evans, Michael Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


Popular commentaries lament that reforms to the financing of Higher Education (HE) in the UK will operate as a significant deterrent to HE participation amongst students from less advantaged backgrounds. This view of debt as a deterrent is powerful and exists not only at a societal level, but also, as we show, is present in schools. Our data reveal, however, that these ‘debt commentaries’ play out very differently across schools according to the nature of their catchment and the sorts of views staff hold about pupils in relation to their fear of debt. Furthermore, students’ views on debt largely contradict these popular ‘debt-as-deterrent’ narratives and instead are often characterised by acceptance, ambivalence and at times positive orientations towards the prospect of debt. These findings vividly illuminate both the regional and institutional specificity of staff and student decision making in relation to ‘debt’, hence they have substantial implications for HE funding policy specifically and debates about widening participation in HE more generally, where ensuring greater equity in the scope of choices young people have when it comes to choosing a university is a pressing concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267-1282
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number9
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • debt
  • discourse
  • higher education
  • Young people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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