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‘Making their way’: The Higher Education decision-making and choices of underrepresented Further Education students in England

Baker, Zoe Sarah (2017) ‘Making their way’: The Higher Education decision-making and choices of underrepresented Further Education students in England. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Existing research has largely provided attention to the HE decision-making and choices of students embarking on their post-16 studies in sixth forms and 11-18 comprehensives, with relatively little attention paid to those in Further Education (FE). This doctoral thesis addresses knowledge gaps in our understanding of underrepresented FE students’ higher education (HE) decision-making and choices, paying particular attention to the reasons and influences informing these over the course of their post-16 studies. I question whether FE students approach their HE decisions and choices as individualised, or whether they are mediated by structural limitations, given the emphasis on students making the ‘right’ choices for themselves (BIS, 2011). To explore these research questions, I conducted a qualitative longitudinal narrative inquiry over a 16-18 month period with FE students in England, using a combination of paper and audio diaries, individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Applying Archer’s (2003, 2007, 2012) reflexive modalities, along with Bourdieu’s (1986) forms of capital to participants’ narratives facilitated the identification of enablements and constraints as well as different responses to structure, action and social mobility in their HE decision-making and choices. Numerous reasons and influences were identified, such as the influence of ‘known others’, biographical experiences, intrinsic interests, instrumental rationality, emotional investment in HEIs, attainment and competition, which varied in intensity for individual participants over time. This was also the case for structural constraints, namely an absence of economic capital, which students appeared to realise over time. Participants’ responses to reasons, influences and structural constraints were complex and influenced by their personal projects and reflexive modes. Where individualised approaches to choice-making were identified, these were thwarted by unnegotiable constraints, which were ‘masked’ by changes in reflexivity. WP programmes and initiatives acted as an enablement in aiding some participants to overcome constraints. Yet, only a minority of participants were involved in such programmes. These findings collectively convey that the majority of participants were unable to go where they preferred in their HE decisions, and, instead, had to decipher the ‘reasonable’ option when constraints related to economic capital were realised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Zoe Sarah Baker
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2017 13:51
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2017 13:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17897

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