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Title: What's the value of a degree? : graduates' perceptions of value of their undergraduate degrees
Author: Ingham, Deena
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 5062
Awarding Body: University of Bedfordshire
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis sets out to analyse perceptions of the legacy value of an undergraduate degree from graduates at different distances since graduation. This perspective has not been systematically sought within higher education today. Submission of the work comes as attention in England is focused on ‘teaching excellence’ and Government expectations that a higher education degree should deliver lasting value to graduates and taxpayers alike. Thus the work has importance in providing new research identifying that the graduate voice supports more realistic student expectations and effective curricula. Underpinned by constructivist theories of research (Kukla, 2000) and learning (Dewey 1916) the study sought to understand the value of a degree through the experiences and perceptions of graduates. It explored with them how they recognise and allocate value within well-established areas such as economic/financial, academic and personal, defined by previous researchers including Barnett (1990), Mezirow (1991) and Caul (1993). A mixed methods two-phase study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from 15 interviews and an online survey of 202 graduates from universities in England across all institutional mission groups. Graduates were invited to examine and allocate the relative value of their degree in economic/financial, academic and personal terms. The primary conclusion was that whilst 99 per cent of graduates perceived value in their degree they attributed least value to the economic/financial benefits. This indicates a discrepancy between graduate perceptions of value and the hegemonic cost/benefit discourse that underpins political policy around individual tuition fees. The findings additionally determined a statistically significant relationship between students’ entry motivation and graduate perception of degree value. Graduates whose entry motivation as students had been to meet the expectations of others were more likely to perceive lower value in their degree than those motivated by personal aspiration and a career goal requiring a degree. Graduates reporting the highest value perceptions also evidenced selfauthorship during their degrees. The relationship between high perceptions of value and likelihood to recommend a degree or institution emerged as statistically significant. Analysis of the findings resulted in the creation of a conceptual model of graduate perception of value which recommends institutions resource drawing on the graduate voice to develop and sustain value within and surrounding a degree to sustain their work. The findings revealed implications for sustaining student enrolment and institutional advancement in an increasingly commercialised, competitive and marketised sector. The thesis demonstrates ways in which regular collation and publication of graduate perceptions of value evidence, and inform, the legacy of undergraduate degrees across the sector and from specific institutions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: graduates ; perceptions ; undergraduate degrees ; X342 Academic studies in Higher Education ; higher education