Oxford Brookes Business School

    • Educational choices

      Educational choices at 16-19 and adverse outcomes at university

  • Background to the project

    Around 7% of students entering UK university drop out before the start of their second year, and a similar proportion repeat their first year in the same subject and at the same institution. Both these outcomes are detrimental to the individual, through their potential costs in terms of time, financial resources and perhaps mental health. For students who manage to complete their degree, failing to get a 2:1 may also be an adverse outcome, given that having a 2:1 is related to higher future earnings. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been shown to be at higher risk of dropping out and of receiving below a 2:1 than their more privileged peers, which is an issue for social mobility. To date little is known about the social background of students who repeat a year.

    This project sets out the gaps by social background in these three adverse outcomes of dropping out, repeating a year and receiving a grade below 2.1 in their final degree. It then examines whether differences in the qualifications and subjects with which students enter university can help explain these gaps.

    This work will be important for students and those advising them at school and colleges in making choices of subjects and qualifications at age 16+ which increase their chance of flourishing in their university studies, as well as for universities in planning interventions and setting pre-requisites for courses. It will inform policy makers in the current conversations over appropriate preparation for higher education and is timely given the recent raising of the school leaving age, which means more students than ever are making choices about subjects and qualifications post 16.

  • About the funder

    The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and qualitative methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation.