89Choosing and funding a university education The importance of preparing for a career remains paramount for the students participating in this year's survey, with improving job opportunities once again the most common reason for going to university.This year, just under three quarters of students (74%) said this was a key factor in their decision, up slightly on 2010, while almost two thirds (62%) were also seeking to improve their earning potential.That is not to say that students were only interested in money: an admirable 64% also hoped to improve their knowledge of an area of interest, a significant increase on the 57% who cited this as a motivation two years ago. This finding should hearten lecturers who fear the emergence of an increasingly 'consumerist' generation of students as fees rise. Those who believe university is primarily about the pursuit of knowledge, rather than training for a career, will also be pleased to learn that despite the fierce competition in the graduate job market, the vast majority (87%) of students said they had not changed their choice of course or career as a result of the current economic climate. When it came to financing their education, the most common source of money was, once again, a student loan, while half of students also relied on financial support from their parents. This may reflect unwillingness among parents to allow their children to get into debt - as well as a lack of available credit from other sources - at a time when their earning potential is less certain. It was also noticeable that fewer students relied on overdrafts and credit cards (just 4% used the latter) than was the case two years ago. A quarter of students now take part-time jobs during term-time with a similar proportion doing so in their holidays. Of those who held down jobs alongside their studies, most worked between one and 10 hours a week (45% did) or 11 to 20 hours (42%), however the small minority who work over 31 hours in a typical week during term-time had risen from 2% in 2010 to 3% this year. A new survey question referred to the changes being instituted to university funding later this year, when the fee cap is set to treble. Students were asked how their decisions about their university education would have changed if they had faced the higher fees when they applied, with a staggering one in four (26%) saying they would have abandoned their plans for higher education altogether. 87% said they had not changed their choice of course or career as a result of the current economic climate20102010201020122012201273%58%57%74%62%64%Top three reasons for going to universityTo improve job opportunitesTo improve salary prospectsTo improve knowledge in area of interest"I needed to get a qualification that would lead to a job rather than getting a degree for the sake of it."
89However, the largest group (four in 10) said they would have made no change to their course or university, while smaller numbers would have chosen different universities and/or different courses. It is also worth noting that almost a fifth said they did not know how they would have responded, highlighting the uncertainty over the impact of the fee hike. Students were also asked how they would have expected their lifestyle to change under higher fees, with over half (51%) saying that they would have made greater demands on their tutors in order to ensure they were 'getting the most for their money'. Asked about the debt they were likely to incur during their degree, around a fifth said they expected to emerge debt free, slightly more than in 2010 but far less than the quarter in 2006. However, most still expect to incur significant debts, with 30% now predicting it would total more than £20,000 - up two percentage points on 2010 and far higher than the 4% who said they expected debts of this amount in the 2006 survey. As in previous years, international students were far more likely to say they would leave owing nothing. Despite the significant sums that many students will have to pay back after graduation, the proportion who said the debt was a worthwhile investment in their future career is still overwhelming, with three quarters saying it was. This was more even than in 2010, when just 67% were content with the financial investment, and continues the upward trend from earlier surveys (the figure was 64% in 2008). It is also noteworthy that the vast majority (85%) reported that the amount of debt they incurred would not influence their choice of career, slightly lower than the 90% in 2010.If starting in 2012 with £9,000 tuition fees would you have changed your plansMake no change - 41%Choose different university but similar course - 26%Choose current university but different course - 10%Choose different university a different course - 3%Choose not to go university at all - 2%Don't know - 18%