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Title: Going higher, going further? : student perspectives on higher education at further education colleges and universities in England
Author: Allen, Jennifer
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Post-compulsory education in England is divided into two sectors: one for higher education (HE) and one for further education (FE). Although they mostly function separately, there is an overlap between the two in terms of HE provision. Currently around eight per cent (159,000) of HE students in England are taught at FE colleges (Association of Colleges, 2016) and approximately 14 per cent (22,060) of these students are pursuing a bachelor's degree (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2016). To offer bachelor's degrees, FE colleges must partner with universities to validate their qualifications. Consequently, college graduates enter the labour market with university-validated degrees. However, very little is known about how college students' journeys through HE compare with those of their university counterparts. This study used semi-structured interviews (N=30) and a questionnaire (N=78) to explore how the decisions, experiences, post-graduation expectations and employment or further study outcomes of business undergraduates at English universities compare with those at English FE colleges. In particular, this research focused on students from six institutions (four FE colleges and two universities) across Yorkshire and Humberside and the West Midlands who were in the final year of bachelor's degrees in business-related subjects in 2013. The differences between these two groups of students emerged throughout their HE journeys. Whereas university students portrayed their pursuit of HE as inevitable, college students (depending upon their age) described making an active choice to go to HE, being directed towards it or drifting into it. When selecting an institution, most university students made a choice based on preferences, while college students made one based on constraints. Their student experiences were largely shaped by the particular environment of their type of institution, meaning college students often faced tension between HE and FE that did not feature in the university student experience. This tension permeated every aspect of the college student experience, from the style of teaching to the facilities and services available at their institution. Although college students appeared to have slightly more realistic post-graduation expectations (especially in terms of salary), university students tended to have more positive outcomes, largely due to the fact that they completed work placements during their course which led to full-time jobs after they graduated. The data from this study were analysed using the concepts of the 'figured world' (Holland et al., 1998), boundaries, identity and culture. In so doing, it becomes clear that despite the fact that these two groups of students undertook similar qualifications in similar subject areas, they did not achieve similar outcomes. As a consequence, it is argued that although HE in FE does widen participation in terms of offering more students the chance to pursue HE, it does not necessarily grant access to the same types of post-graduation opportunities.
Supervisor: Ertl, Hubert ; James Relly, Susan Sponsor: SKOPE
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; Higher--Great Britain--Evaluation ; Students--England--Attitudes ; Education and state--Great Britain--Evaluation ; Universities and colleges--England