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Monitoring contemporary student flows and characteristics: secondary analyses using the Labour Force Survey and the General Household Survey

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This paper examines trends in the participation in higher education by disadvantaged social groups over the recent period of higher education expansion and reform. It has been suggested that disadvantaged groups can recoup by participation at mature ages and this question is examined. The data sources used are the Labour Force Survey (1986–1995), which yielded 13384 students (6747 men and 6637 women) and the General Household Survey (1984–1992) which yielded 1936 students (982 men and 954 women). From a perspective of equal opportunities, the relative participation of young people from manual and non-manual origins does not appear to have changed over the period considered, but there is some evidence of increased relative participation by people from manual class origins as mature students. Mature students from such origins were older than those from non-manual class origins, as were mature women than mature men, with consequences for employability. From a perspective of lifelong learning, the recent expansion has been successful, with more entrants from the unemployed. Considerable percentages of women also enter from full-time housework, and increasing percentages from manual work. However, as in the past, many entrants had been successful in becoming employed before entry, some being seconded by employers. Despite these changes, the greatest absolute take-up has been from middle class youth. Early employment outcomes were examined and suggest some discrimination against mature students. It is possible that the increased cost of higher education, in the context of an expanded labour market of graduates, may deter some mature students.
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Keywords: Access to education; Gender; Higher education; Mature study; Social class

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: University of Manchester, UK

Publication date: 2000-02-01

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