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Title: How do university students who have completed a widening participation programme make sense of what shaped their aspirations to attend university?
Author: Wilson, Ashleigh
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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Educational Psychologists (EPs) have been described as being well placed to support young people reach positive destinations in adulthood and avoid being part of the not in education, employment or training (NEET) demographic (Currie & Goodall, 2009). The prospect of attending university is an aspiration for many young people and this can have a positive impact on social mobility due to the related ( higher incomes associated with degree level qualifications (Clegg, 2017). Coming from a background of low socioeconomic status has been found to have a negative impact on the likelihood of an individual accessing university education (Office for Fair Access, 2017). Widening participation programmes are interventions that aim to assist with the difficulties such groups face in accessing higher education. A systematic literature review was conducted in order to explore what effect widening participation programmes had on young people’s aspirations to attend university. The literature showed that the concept of aspirations is complex and there are often a number of structural and individual factors that impact on the likelihood of a young person from low socioeconomic background accessing university. To explore this concept further, an empirical study was designed in order to explore how current university students made sense of how they had shaped their aspirations to pursue higher education. Newcastle University’s widening participation programme, PARTNERS, was approached in order to recruit potential participants. Utilising a mixed method approach, 139 former PARTNERS participants completed an online questionnaire that explored the barriers and facilitators of them developing the aspiration to attend university. To explore this in more depth, semi-structured interviews were carried out with three students who had completed the online questionnaire. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) was used to analyse and interpret the transcripts in order to capture the lived experiences of participants. This study found that there are individual psychological components of aspirations, however, this is dependent on external factors and opportunities available in their social context. Positive feedback and encouragement from others appears to play a supporting role in developing aspirations. This was found to have a positive impact on developing the young people’s self-efficacy (Bandura, 1994) and this had a positive impact on their motivations to attend university. Young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had a number of barriers to overcome and having access to widening participant programmes was found to be helpful in them developing the capital necessary to enter higher education.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available