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Deciding what and where to study: How do BTEC students at an FE College make their HE choices and how does the College shape these decisions?

Atkinson, Diane (2022) Deciding what and where to study: How do BTEC students at an FE College make their HE choices and how does the College shape these decisions? Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

The HE decision-making of BTEC students has typically been framed as somewhat deficient, restricted by financial, geographical and psychological constraints which lead to “inferior” choices of applied subjects and local, post-92 universities. Similarly, the HE choice support provided by FE colleges has been depicted as under-resourced and patchy, appearing insufficient in comparison with other providers. This EdD thesis aimed to explore these framings in more depth and, in particular, to consider how and why FE HE choice support exists in the form that it does. To this end, a primarily qualitative case study of BTEC HE choice in an FE college in the West Midlands was undertaken. Multiple sources of evidence were utilised, namely the College UCAS database, College documents and interviews with students and staff (including senior FE staff, a previously under-explored area). Document and interview data were analysed in accordance with the Theory of Practice Architectures, a framework which illuminated the various arrangements holding the practices of HE choice-making in place, hence indicating what pre-existing conditions (such as organisational arrangements) would need to change for the practices themselves to change. Findings revealed that a number of BTEC student practices challenged the notion of deficient decision-making, including a strong student focus on researching “what” rather than “where” to study and evidence of thorough, comprehensive research, albeit on a small selection of universities. Findings also offered an insight into the conditions underlying the perceived deficiencies in the HE choice support offered by FE colleges. These existed at a practical level, in that competing priorities and daily struggles for survival undermined attempts for a consistent approach. Constraints further existed as moral and ethical issues, with participants debating the impact of conflicting notions such as “raising aspirations”, impartiality and personal choice on the construction of student HE choice support. Findings were translated into a number of practical recommendations for policy-makers, universities and colleges which are detailed at the conclusion of the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2023 12:19
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2024 01:38

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