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Post-graduation reflections on the value of a degree

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This article investigates the impact of a changing higher education system on young adults' priorities and motivations. A considerable number of studies have explored the impact of recent changes on patterns of participation within higher education. However, there has been less emphasis on how such changes have been played out in the experiences of graduates and, more specifically, in the interface between higher education and lifelong learning. To redress this gap, this article explores the changes to graduates' experiences brought about by the 'massification' of the higher education system. Research conducted amongst young people in Australia has suggested that as result of the normalisation of post-compulsory education and the encouragement of high aspirations, young people have come to assume a one-to-one relationship between being qualified and having a lasting professional career. It has been argued that as a result of these assumptions, young adults are often disappointed when they do eventually enter the labour market, and experience uncertainties previously associated with the end of compulsory schooling. If young adults do indeed feel misled about the rewards of a higher education, it is possible that this may have a significant bearing on their perceptions of the value of engaging in further education and training in the future. Drawing on 90 life history interviews with graduates in their mid-twenties, this article explores the prevalence of such attitudes in the UK and their impact on young adults' attitudes to lifelong learning.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Political, International and Policy Studies, University of Surrey, UK 2: Norah Fry Research Centre, University of Bristol, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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