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Title: How do age and gender affect university students’ experience and outcomes?
Author: Solomon, Lucy
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 2616
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2012
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Increasing access to higher education has led to a diversified student body, suggesting that conceptualising the ‘student experience' as homogeneous is no longer viable. Previous research reported that age and gender exert significant influences on the student experience, but this has generally taken a ‘snapshot' of those experiences rather than tracing differences over time. This study makes a contribution to this area by assessing changes in the student experience over the lifespan of the degree to explore the relative impact of age and gender (and the potential interaction between them). The study employed a longitudinal qualitative design to explore in-depth the experiences of sixty-one students over three years, using an innovative email research method. Data was analysed in two key ways: a thematic analysis of the findings which identified issues including confidence, friendships, social life, paid work and family commitments; the exploration of illustrative case studies used to highlight the experiences of ‘ideal type' students in four demographic groups. Key findings include the following: age and gender influenced the student experience, yet gender exerted the strongest influence. Mature male students were found to share more commonalities of experience with their traditional male counterparts than with female students of varying age. Of the variables which shape experiences, the thesis identified ‘external commitments' as the key factor. This was evidenced by the contrast between the mature female and male groups, with mature women reporting being constrained by family and home responsibilities, whereas mature men were able to create and maintain ‘separate worlds' of university and home life. The thesis argues that the ‘double shift' described as women entered the workplace, has become a triple shift for mature female students attempting to combine home, work and academic responsibilities; notwithstanding this context, this group are the higher performers academically.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LB2300 Higher education ; LC0189 Educational sociology ; LC1200 Inclusive education