How Does Post-16 Education Affect Expectations of Higher Education and How Can We Use This Knowledge?

Jenny Slaughter, Tim Harrison, Paul Wyatt


“How well prepared are our students?” is a question frequently asked by practitioners in Higher Education (HE) and numerous resources exist to help university teachers understand students’ knowledge. “What are our students’ expectations?” is less frequently asked yet we propose that expectations have significant impact. For prospective students’ expectations may influence the choice of degree and institution; for the new undergraduate, the ability to successfully integrate and progress. The current study investigates student expectations, using questionnaires, interviews and observations alongside data analysis of a single cohort of students, from point of entry to departure.

Whilst limited to students studying science within a single HE institute, grouping by demographic factors such as the type of school attended, shows trends in student expectations of university, their ability to transition and their subsequent academic attainment. Significantly, we show that students from independent schools and male students suffer the consequences of misaligned expectations as well as lower degree attainment. Finally we present a case for how this information might be used to provide better support to schools, prospective students and new undergraduates.

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