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Survey reveals parental influence on students' career choices

The majority of students say their parents play a major role in their decision-making about careers and study, according to a report published last week. More than half (54%) of the students who took part said that their parents tried to exert influence over their choice of course or career, while 69% said their parents had tried to influence their choice of university.

The study was carried out by GTI Media, the parent company of, along with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and professional services firm EY. It highlights both the crucial role that parents play in guiding their children’s career choices and the blind spots that some parents may have when it comes to alternatives to university education, such as school leaver programmes that offer a combination of professional training and paid employment.

Only 27% of the students who took part in the survey said their parents had discussed alternatives to university with them, while 76% of parents said they did not know where to find online information about alternatives to university. By way of contrast, 70% of parents said they encouraged their children to go university and of those, 43% felt a degree would improve their children’s long-term career prospects more than an apprenticeship, school leaver programme or joining the job market after college or the sixth form.

Students did not object to parents’ attempts to influence them; 66% thought this was the right thing for parents to do, while only 7% thought it was wrong. More than 3,000 students took part in the survey, along with just over 800 parents.

Julie Stanbridge, the head of student recruitment at EY, commented, ‘The survey results would suggest that for many parents, university is still seen as the default option and the safest route to achieving career success. In reality, entering the workplace straight after A levels can play to the strengths of highly-focused students and provide them with a real head start in their careers.’

Chris Phillips, director of research at GTI Media, said, ‘It’s clear from the research that parents are increasingly active influencers and it’s vital that universities and employers develop innovative strategies to reach students by engaging with their parents.’

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