Parent power dominates education choices

New research examines who and what influences decisions on where to study


Family and friends – in particular parents – top the list of those who influence students’ education choices, according to new research published today (11 September).

The study, conducted by ResearchBods on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Education & Skills Group, examined the main influences on choice of academy, school, college and university among both parents and students.

The research is released as Section 29 of the 2011 Education Act comes into force, placing schools under a duty to secure access to independent careers guidance for their pupils in school years 9-11.

Louise Jaggs, the group’s chair, said:

Louise Jaggs, CIPR Education & Skills Group Chair
The research shows just how much sway parents have on the education choices of young people. Parents are at the heart of the decision-making process, and they in turn are heavily influenced by the views of other family and friends. The results also raise important questions about the role of professional careers advice in the decision making process – family and individual teachers appear to have much more influence on choices than independent advisors. Beyond the main findings there is a wealth of information in this research to help teachers, managers, policy makers and education communications professionals understand who and what shapes the decisions about where people want to study. The full survey data, which we are making freely available to CIPR members, is likely to be particularly useful for communications and public relations professionals seeking to understand who drives the reputation of different education institutions, and what matters most to different groups.
Louise Jaggs, CIPR Education & Skills Group Chair
Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).

Key findings include:

  • Friends and family have more influence on a parent’s view of a school or college than a head teacher or careers advisers
  • A third of parents do not believe that the education their child has received has enabled them to achieve their full potential.
  • Over 90% of parents believe they and their children have made informed decisions about education
  • Choice of study-course, teaching reputation, location and position in league tables are the factors most likely to influence a parent’s view of a university. Tuition fees and living costs were ranked #12 and #8 respectively out of a list of 16
  • Parents rank themselves, school teachers, friends and other family members as the most influential (in that order) in decisions about which academy, school or college their child would attend
  • Students rate their parents’ influence on the decision relating to which academy, school or college they would attend almost as highly as parents do
  • For students, location is the most important factor in this decision-making process. Exam results, progression into further study, a safe and supportive atmosphere and good buildings and equipment are also ranked highly

Who exerts the most influence on choice of school, college or academy?

Ranking All students Parents Students aged 11 to 15 Students aged 16-17 Students aged 18-21
1 Parents Myself (Parent/s) Parents Parents Parents
2 Friends School teacher or tutor Friends Friends Friends
3 School teacher or tutor Friends Brothers/sisters School teacher or tutor School teacher or tutor
4 Brothers/sisters Other family members Other family members Brothers/sisters Brothers/sisters
5 Other family members Brothers/sisters School teacher or tutor Other family members School careers advisor
6 Head teacher Head teacher Head teacher School careers advisor Other family members
7 School careers advisor Other(s) Media Head teacher Social media
8 Media / Journalists School careers advisor School careers advisor Media Media
9 Social media Media / Journalists Social media) Social media Head teacher
10 Other(s) Social media Other Other Other

Fuller details of the survey findings can be found in the accompanying summary document (PDF format).

Louise Jaggs, group chair, is available for interview on Wednesday 5 and Thursday 6 September.

The research was conducted by market research experts, ResearchBods, in August 2012, with 579 student and 510 parent respondents. ResearchBods is an independent research agency specialising in providing ‘robust, responsive and responsible’ consumer research panels – including education panels.

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