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Research by the University of Oxford’s Education Department finds that more girls than boys think it is important to go to university by the age of 13, and this aspiration gap persists when the pupils reach 15 or 16.

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Higher aspirations and self-belief both influence A-level entry as disadvantaged students with higher aspirations are more likely to go on and take A-levels, even after taking into account their GCSE performance, says the report.

Drawing on data from more than 3,000 young people who have been tracked through school since the age of three, the researchers studied how a young person’s aspirations and attitudes towards university affected their academic outcomes after GCSE.

Just over half of disadvantaged students though it was very important to get a university degree at age 15-16, compared with around 60% of those from more advantaged backgrounds. However,  the research shows that these students were not as likely to anticipate they would  go on to university themselves, with just over one-quarter of them (27%) believing this, compared with 39% of their peers from more advantaged backgrounds.

The researchers found that in Year 9, when the children were aged 13 and 14 years old, girls were likely to have higher aspirations than the boys, with almost 65% saying they thought it very important to go to university compared with 58% of boys. Among girls, around 11% thought getting a degree unimportant but for boys the proportion was higher at 15%.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)