Research reveals differences in attitudes between university graduates and rest of the population

7th December 2015

New analysis of NatCen’s flagship British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), released recently, reveals that university graduates’ attitudes differ significantly compared with people with other levels of education, even when other factors like income and social class are taken into account.

The report, published by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS), identifies a relationship between education and attitudes across a range of attitudinal areas.

Findings suggest that educational level (in particular, having a degree) is associated with: interest and involvement in politics; political efficacy; environmental awareness and concern; perceptions of gender roles; attitudes to immigration and immigrants; perceptions of welfare benefits and benefit recipients; national identity and entrepreneurship.

In many cases the attitudinal differences increase incrementally at each level of education. And the differences remain significant when controlling for other factors that might influence attitudes such as socio-economic status and income.

  • Political efficacy: Those with no qualifications were 15% less likely to have taken political action than those with a degree and 13% less likely to say they had no say in what the government does.
  • The environment: Those with a degree were more likely to feel that they understood the causes of environmental problems and to disagree that we worry too much about the future of the environment and not enough about prices and jobs today.
  • Gender equality: University graduates were less likely than the rest of the population to agree that what most women want is a home and children: People with no qualifications were more than 21% more likely and those with A Levels 13% more likely to agree. 
  • Immigration: Graduates were also more likely than the rest of the population to think immigration is good for the economy.
  • Welfare: Those without a degree were 12% more likely to say that if benefits were less generous people would stand on their own two feet than those with a degree.

Julia Griggs, Senior Researcher at NatCen Social Research commented:

“We know already that graduates often have different views about political and social issues to others in the UK, but this has often been explained away as a result of income or social differences that higher education represents. This research suggests instead that there is something unique about the experience of going to university that influences our outlook on life. There are likely to be a number of reasons for these differences to do with both the academic and social experience. It may also be that people who hold certain views are more likely to choose to go to university.”

The full report is available here

Source: NatCen
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