Framing higher education: questions and responses in the British Social Attitudes survey, 1983-2010

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Authors:
  • Anna Mountford-Zimdars
  • Steven Jones
  • Alice Sullivan
  • Anthony Heath


This article focuses on questions and attitudes towards higher education in the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey series. First, we analyse the changing BSA questions (1983-2010) in the context of key policy reports. Our results show that changes in the framing of higher education questions correspond with changes in the macro-discourse of higher education policies. Second, we focus on the 2010 BSA survey responses to investigate how attitudes towards higher education are related to respondents' characteristics. Respondents' socio-economic position predicts attitudes towards higher education. Graduates and professionals are most likely to support a reduction in higher education opportunities, but those who have so far benefitted least from higher education are supportive of expansion. One interpretation - with potential implications for social mobility - is that those who have already benefited from higher education are most inclined to pull the ladder up behind them. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-811
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013