Exploring young people's perceptions and attitudes towards their progression to university: A Scottish rural perspective


  • Laurence Lasselle University of St Andrews




rurality, perceptions, attitudes, higher education


This paper presents an exploratory analysis of young people’s perceptions and attitudes towards their potential progression to higher education in rural areas of Scotland. These young people belonged to three state secondary schools whose catchment areas were mainly rural. All were in S5/Year 12 or S6/Year 13 and aged 16 years and over. They filled in a serial questionnaire in November 2014 and again in March 2015. Firstly, the analysis reveals that 40% of the respondents were not aware of any obstacles to their going to university. Secondly, it points out that if the majority of the respondents perceived financial barriers, the perception of these obstacles tended to decline over time. Thirdly, while their enthusiasm and motivation towards their potential progression to higher education remained high in March 2015, more had reported these positive attitudes in November 2014. Finally, although most perceived their parents’ enthusiasm about their going to university, fewer acknowledged it in March 2015 and many more recognised the enthusiasm of their schools.

Author Biography

Laurence Lasselle, University of St Andrews

Laurence Lasselle is Senior Lecturer in the School of Management at the University of St Andrews, UK. She started her academic career at the University of St Andrews as the May Wong Smith Research Fellow in 1997. She gained her PhD in 1996 from the Université de la Méditerranée, France, and was awarded a six-month Jean Monnet Research Fellowship tenable at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, in 2003. She has developed a keen interest in the economics of education. Her most recent research in this area has been funded by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council and is about access to higher education for Scottish rural communities.


BBC. (2016, March 14). Report aims to tackle Scottish university inequality [Online news]. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35804363

Blenkinshop, S., McCrone, T., Wade, P., & Morris, M. (2006). How do young people make choices at 14 and 16? [Research Report No. 773]. Annerley, Nottingham: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Commission for Rural Communities. (2012). Barriers to education, employment and training for your people in rural areas. Gloucester: Author. Retrieved from http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/15199/1/Barriers-to-education-employment-and-training-for-young-people-in-rural-areas.pdf

Commission on Widening Access. (2016). A blueprint for fairness. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Scottish Government. Retrieved from http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00496535.pdf

Connor, H., & Dewson, S. (2001). Social class and higher education: Issues affecting decisions on participation by lower social class groups. Nottingham, UK: Department for Education and Employment.

Croxford, L., & Raffe, D. (2013). Differentiation and social segregation of UK higher education 1996-2010. Oxford Review of Education, 39(2), 172–192.

Forsyth, A., & Furlong, A. (2003). Losing out? Socioeconomic disadvantage and access to higher education. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press/Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Frenette, M. (2004). Access to college and university: Does distance to school matter? Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de Politiques, 30(4), 427–443.

Gibbons, S., & Vignoles, A. (2012). Geography, choice and participation in higher education in England. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 42, 98–113.

Gorard, S., Adnett, N., May, H., Slack, K., Smith, E., & Thomas, L. (2007). Overcoming the barriers to higher education. Oakhill, VA: Trentham Books.

Hartas, D. (2016). Young people’s educational aspirations: Psychological factors and the home environment. Journal of Youth Studies, 19(9), 1145–1163.

James, R., Wyn, J., Baldwin, G., Hepworth, G., McInnis, C., & Stephanou, A. (1999). Rural and isolated school students and their higher education choices: A re-examination of student location, socioeconomic background, and educational advantage and disadvantage [Commissioned Report No. 62]. Melbourne, Vic.: Centre for the Study of Higher Education and Youth Research Centre, The University of Melbourne.

Kintrea, K., St Clair, R., & Houston, M. (2011). The Influence of parents, places and poverty on educational attitudes and aspirations. York, UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/young-people-education-attitudes-full.pdf

Lasselle, L. (2016). Barriers to higher education entry – a Scottish rural perspective. Scottish Educational Review, 48(1), 78–88.

Lasselle, L., Kirby, G., & Macpherson, R. (2015). Access to higher education for rural communities: An exploratory analysis. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10023/7553

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2008). OECD rural policy reviews Scotland, UK. Paris: Author.

Raffe, D., & Croxford, L. (2015). How stable is the stratification of higher education in England and Scotland? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(2), 313–335.

Riddell, S. (2014). Key informants’ views of higher education in Scotland [Working Paper 5]. Edinburgh, Scotland: Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh.

Scottish Government. (2012). SIMD, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/SIMD

Scottish Government. (2014, November 26). First Minister – Programme for Government [Speech/briefing]. Retrieved from https://news.gov.scot/speeches-and-briefings/first-minister-programme-for-government

Skerratt, S., Atterton, J., Brodie, E., Carson, D., Heggie, R., McCracken, D., … Woolvin, M. (2014). Rural Scotland in focus: 2014 [Report]. Edinburgh, Scotland: Rural Policy Centre, SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College.

Spielhofler, T., Golden, S., & Evans, K. (2011). Young people’s aspirations in rural areas. Slough, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. (2014, April 3). Access to education for rural education [PP No 305, Session 2010-14]. Melbourne, Vic.: Victorian Government.

Walsh, S., Flannery, D., & Cullinan, J. (2015). Geographic accessibility to higher education on the island of Ireland. Irish Educational Studies, 34(1), 5–23.




How to Cite

Lasselle, L. (2017). Exploring young people’s perceptions and attitudes towards their progression to university: A Scottish rural perspective. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(2), 6–17. https://doi.org/10.47381/aijre.v27i2.119