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Is This What Real Men Do? The Learning Careers of Male Mature Students in Higher Education

Gannon, Anne (2014) Is This What Real Men Do? The Learning Careers of Male Mature Students in Higher Education. EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract This thesis explores the learning careers and higher education (HE) experiences of a group of male mature students who chose to return to education in an Institute of Technology (IoT) in Ireland. Men had traditionally dominated HE in Ireland but educational transformations, which resulted in a widening of participation in HE, saw this change. By the mid-1990s, as more women began to participate in HE, men had come to be under represented in Irish HE. This became a cause for concern amongst policymakers and researchers. In the current recession men are looking to HE as a means of finding a job. The Irish government is keen to improve the HE experience for all students including mature students. As more men enter HE as mature students there is a need to understand their experiences in order to continue to widen male mature student participation in HE and provide support throughout their HE experience. The way in which men see themselves and their constructions of masculinity have a bearing on their relationship to education and participation in HE. The social constructions of masculinity, which can take many forms, are shaped by experiences and expectations at home and in school. Their experiences affect the trajectory of their learning careers and often determine whether education and HE are options in their lives at eighteen or as mature students. Masculinity, which has and is being refashioned, has brought about changes especially regarding the traditional role of the male breadwinner and female carer. The decline of the breadwinner role means that some men see the need to reposition themselves with regards to their masculine role in life, through new jobs and opportunities. Their attitudes and their social capital can, like their constructions of masculinity, change over time allowing them to cross the boundaries into HE so that they can become ‘better’ men. The study sought to identify and understand the various factors that cause men to return to education in a higher education institution (HEI). Fourteen men took part Is This What Real Men Do? The Learning Careers of Male Mature Students in HE ix in the research study and various factors influenced their decisions to return to education. The participants explained their decisions and experiences through their narratives which were collected via semi-structured interviews. The narrative approach allowed the participants to describe their individual learning careers thus framing their educational experiences. It draws on the framework of learning careers to discuss the various reasons that influenced the participants’ return to education in HE. The study analysed and provided insights into the reasons why the participants entered HE and the impact that previous educational and life experiences had on their learning careers as well as highlighting the HE experience itself. These deeper insights provide an understanding of people’s learning careers. These do not always follow a traditional linear pathway but can stop and start and so develop over time. The study reveals that the factors which impact the trajectories of a learning career include school and life experiences. For the participants a return to education was the way that they, as ‘real men’, could find jobs in order to look after themselves and their families. The study further indicates that there is a need for the HEIs to take on board the importance of catering for mature students’ current expectations that have been framed by past experiences. This HEI support should allow them the chance to fulfil their traditional ‘real men’ roles by offering them the opportunity to become (better) working men and family providers. These findings should provide a lens for Irish policymakers’ deeper understanding of the male mature student thus informing future HE planning and practice.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.635404
Depositing User: Mrs Anne Gannon
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2015 14:36
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8153

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