Towards a typology of debt attitudes among contemporary young UK undergraduates

Harrison, N. , Chudry, F. , Waller, R. and Hatt, S. (2015) Towards a typology of debt attitudes among contemporary young UK undergraduates. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 39 (1). pp. 85-107. ISSN 0309-877X Available from:

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As the UK sits on the verge of a major change in the financing of both universities and students, this study seeks to capture and analyse the attitudes to money, borrowing and debt among contemporary young undergraduates. It reports findings from a qualitative study of 62 individuals in the second term of their first year at university, these being representatively sampled from volunteers across gender, social class, ethnicity and subject discipline. The semi-structured interview data was subjected to thematic analysis and this was used to derive a tentative typology of debt attitudes ranging from ‘debt-positive’ to ‘debt-angry’. The findings of this study suggest that student attitudes are more complex than assumed in some previous research and journalistic commentary, especially with respect to social class. Counterintuitively, many students from lower social class backgrounds show a positivity about debt as a means of enabling them to access higher level careers; this is consistent with admissions data following the 2006 increase in tuition fees and student indebtedness. More generally, the mainstream of student attitudes appears to fall between the ‘debt-savvy’ and ‘debt-resigned’ types, with students being relatively well-informed about repayment terms and accepting large-scale indebtedness as ‘normal’ with most students being ‘in the same boat’. The implications of these findings, the limitations of the study and future opportunities for research are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 09 May 2013. his is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Further and Higher Education on 9 May 2013, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords: higher education, student finance, debt, attitudes
Faculty/Department: Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education > Department of Education and Childhood
Depositing User: Dr N. Harrison
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2013 09:37
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2019 10:37


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