HE Research Snippet 9 - Open Day Trends & Do Parents Still Attend Open Days?


YouthSight’s first HE Research Snippet unearthed an interesting upward trend in parental attendance at university open days. Although this research was conducted with ‘pre-£9,000’...

Higher Education Research Team at YouthSight
Higher Education Research Team at YouthSight

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YouthSight’s first HE Research Snippet unearthed an interesting upward trend in parental attendance at university open days. Although this research was conducted with ‘pre-£9,000’ prospective students, we speculated that the trend would accelerate in the new higher fees environment.

One year on, we wanted to revisit the topic. Has the trend continued? And as open days become increasingly important in university decision-making, we also wanted to look at how open day behaviour has changed (if at all) amongst prospective students themselves…

 

Yes, parental involvement is on the rise!

As predicted in last year’s HE Research Snippet, this year’s Higher Expectations study reveals a trend of parents continuing to attend more open days. As shown in Figure 1, children were accompanied by one or both parents on over half (52%) of open day events they attended (of institutions they applied to); a higher proportion than we have ever recorded in the past.

To further illustrate the extent to which parental involvement has grown, this represents a proportional increase in parental attendance of over 10% since 2008/09. Interestingly, there has been a steady rise in the attendance of mothers (without fathers), but the attendance of fathers (without mothers) has remained relatively stable over time.

Figure 1: Parental attendance at open days – 2008 to 2012

    Year of starting university
Prospective student accompanied by 2008/09
%
2009/10
%
2010/11
%
2011/12
%
2012/13
%
One or both parents 47 47 49 50 52
One parent 32 31 32 33 34
Mother only 19 19 20 21 22
Father only 13 12 12 13 12
Both parents 16 16 16 17 18

DEC16. Who came with you on the open day(s) at the university? Base: Higher Expectations; All open day responses (of open days attended before making the firm choice) – 2008/09 (21,673); 2009/10 (21,580); 2010/11 (23,397); 2011/12 (24,071); 2012/13 (23,878). * Statistically significant changes: An orange background indicates that this figure is significantly different to the previous year

 

Is parental attendance a stronger ‘buying signal’?

Like last year, we also looked at how parental attendance at university open days should be viewed in the context of ‘buying signals’ by HEIs. How likely were parents to attend the open day of the institution their child ultimately ended up studying at compared to other open days? It’s probably safe to assume that parents are more likely to attend open days of institutions higher on their childrens’ priority list, but to what extent does the data bear this assumption out?

As Figure 2 shows, almost half the number of prospective students (47%) who brought both parents to an open day subsequently enrolled at that institution compared to less than three in ten prospective students who brought neither parent to the open day (26%). And as we found last year, the presence of mum is a slightly more of a positive indicator than the sole presence of dad (40% of prospective students who attended with their mother only went on to enrol at the institution, compared to 34% who attended with their father only).

Figure 2: Parental attendance vs. ‘buying signals’

    Those attending with...
Subsequently attended the university or not? Neither parent
%
Father only
%
Mother only
%
Both parents

%
Subsequently attended 29 34 40 47
Subsequently didn’t attend 71 66 60 53
DEC16. Who came with you on the open day(s) at the university? Base: Higher Expectations; All open day responses (of open days attended before making the firm choice) – 2012/13: Those who attended with: Neither parent (10,978); Father only (2,980); Mother only (5,459); Both parents (4,461)
 

And have prospective students themselves changed their open day behaviour?

Finally, parental involvement aside, given that the open day is becoming more important in university decision-making, we wanted to look at whether there has been any significant change in the open day behaviour of prospective students themselves.

We found that there has been a noticeable change in relation to when prospective students attend open days; Higher Expectations is starting to show more prospective students attending open days before submitting their UCAS form (shown below in Figure 3). Anecdotally (as the number of open days attended has remained reasonably stable and applicants are submitting UCAS forms slightly earlier if anything) we think this is because more prospective students are going to Summer open days in their lower sixth form.

Figure 3: Open day attendance – 2008 to 2012

DEC2. When did you attend the open day at the university? Base: Higher Expectations; All open day responses – 2008/09 (22,909); 2009/10 (22,679); 2010/11 (24,502); 2011/12 (25,411); 2012/13 (25,041).
 
Are the findings in this article consistent with how open day attendance has changed at your institution in the last couple of years? Drop us a line to let us know, or tweet us @youthsight

 

Conclusions

Parental attendance continues to rise. And while difficult to measure exactly in this piece of research, it is clear that parents have a significant degree of influence over their children’s university decision-making. It is therefore more important than ever for institutions to ensure their open days not only resonate with prospective students, but with parents as well. Higher Expectations will continue to measure open day attendance amongst prospective students, parents and other key influencers on an annual basis (reporting down to the level of the individual institution and competitor institutions).

 

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