Research and Teaching Group 3 Seminar

Research and Teaching Group 3 Seminar

Issued: Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:24:00 GMT


Wednesday 17 January 2018 @ 3.15 pm

Room 432, St Andrew’s Building

Dr Katy Vigurs, International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), University of Derby

Higher University Fees, Higher Student Debts: Unequal Graduate Transitions in England?



The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that English students graduating from universities in 2015 would, on average, leave with nearly £20,000 more financial debt than those graduating in 2014. This presentation draws on findings from a research project that investigated whether some groups of English higher education students are disadvantaged as they graduate from university as a result of the 2012 student finance system in England. The paper draws on semi-structured interviews with final year undergraduate students (n74) about their graduate decision making from two different universities in central England (46 studied at a Russell Group University and 28 studied at a Post-1992 University). Half the students graduated in 2014 (lower fees) and the other half graduated in 2015 (higher fees). The students interviewed in 2014 (n37) were selected by socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. The 2014 sample was matched in 2015 to ensure that 37 final year students were selected from the same university, socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. The study found that the sample of Russell Group students who were from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and who were graduating in 2015, had more positive outcomes in relation to having saved money whilst studying, having lower levels of graduate labour market anxiety and higher instances of having achieved a graduate job position or a place on a postgraduate course prior to graduation. In stark contrast, the 2015 sample of post-1992 university graduates (from both lower and higher socio-economic backgrounds) evidenced more uncertain and precarious graduate transitions, which appeared to be strongly linked to their perceived levels of student debt and future financial concerns. This chapter raises questions about whether fairer future university finance systems need to be made possible to avoid some graduate transitions to adulthood being a highly contingent process.


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