CGHE Seminar 149

Students’ aspirations and the perceived value of a university degree: A cross-country analysis of students’ perspectives in European higher education systems

  • Thursday, 10 Sep 2020 14:00 - 15:00
  • Zoom webinar, registration required
  • Achala Gupta, UCL Institute of Education

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This paper examines the aspirations of students in Higher Education (HE) settings in six European countries – Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Spain. Drawing on 54 focus groups, conducted with 295 undergraduate students in 2017-18, we analyse the reasons students gave for pursuing HE and explore the way they perceive the value of their degree programme. Despite differences in HE structures, data show strong similarities in students’ views across Europe. We find that students’ aspirations can be varied and complex. However, when viewed from the perspective of future employment, students tended to believe that the value of their university degree was mediated by both the place and the subject of study, even in ostensibly ‘horizontal’ HE systems.


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Achala Gupta

Achala Gupta

Achala Gupta is a Research Fellow in UCL Institute of Education at University College London. Her current research focusses on education delivery systems, schooling practices, and the processes of social reproduction. Achala manages the student strand of the ERC-funded Eurostudents project (led by Rachel Brooks) that explores constructions of higher education students in six European countries. Before joining the project team, Achala was based in Asia Research Institute (at National University of Singapore) as a Research Associate on a project about global Asian universities. She has published findings from her doctoral research – ethnographical account of mainstream education from the vantage point of private tutoring in the Indian context – in British Journal of Sociology of Education and Critical Studies in Education.

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