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From September 2012 universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) in England have been able to charge up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, which had previously been capped at £3,375 per year. Against this backdrop, this report explores the relative importance of tuition fees on the choices made between universities by students, and parents of students, intending to go to university.

The research uses a stated preference survey approach, which consisted of asking individuals to make choices within a survey context about which university they would choose across a range of hypothetical scenarios. From these choices it is then possible to analyse the decisions made, the extent to which they are influenced by different factors, and to observe the trade-offs being made.

We see that tuition fee levels are not the only consideration which influences the judgement of parents and students when deciding to apply to university. Our analysis suggests that several factors influence university choice apart from tuition fees, including employment prospects, living expenses, location and quality of the course offered. We also quantify the trade-offs that students and parents are willing to make; specifically their willingness to pay, through tuition fees, for other aspects that may differentiate universities and their courses.

This report provides new empirical evidence to support the debate around the relative influence that tuition fee levels have in influencing the decisions of those choosing between universities, and provides a foundation for future econometric analysis.

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The research described in this report was commissioned by the RAND Europe Board of Trustees.

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