How do age and gender affect university students’ experience and outcomes?

Solomon, Lucy (2012) How do age and gender affect university students’ experience and outcomes? Doctoral thesis , University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Increasing access to higher education has led to a diversified student body, suggesting
that conceptualising the ‘student experience’ as homogeneous is no longer viable.
Previous research reported that age and gender exert significant influences on the
student experience, but this has generally taken a ‘snapshot’ of those experiences
rather than tracing differences over time. This study makes a contribution to this area
by assessing changes in the student experience over the lifespan of the degree to
explore the relative impact of age and gender (and the potential interaction between
them).

The study employed a longitudinal qualitative design to explore in-depth the
experiences of sixty-one students over three years, using an innovative email research
method. Data was analysed in two key ways: a thematic analysis of the findings which
identified issues including confidence, friendships, social life, paid work and family
commitments; the exploration of illustrative case studies used to highlight the
experiences of ‘ideal type’ students in four demographic groups.

Key findings include the following: age and gender influenced the student experience,
yet gender exerted the strongest influence. Mature male students were found to share
more commonalities of experience with their traditional male counterparts than with
female students of varying age. Of the variables which shape experiences, the thesis
identified ‘external commitments’ as the key factor. This was evidenced by the contrast
between the mature female and male groups, with mature women reporting being
constrained by family and home responsibilities, whereas mature men were able to
create and maintain ‘separate worlds’ of university and home life. The thesis argues that the ‘double shift’ described as women entered the workplace, has become a triple
shift for mature female students attempting to combine home, work and academic
responsibilities; notwithstanding this context, this group are the higher performers
academically.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC0065 Social aspects of education > LC0189 Educational sociology
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1200 Inclusive education
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 28 May 2012 07:39
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 17:13
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39431

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