«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»
I am not currently involved in any of these activities, it is difficult for nursing students who work shifts on placement to get involved with activities at Leeds Met. I arrange my own activities outside of Leeds Met around my studies which are more flexible.
Unfortunately, not being able to gain any kind of financial support towards my studies from either the government or local authorities, I do not have any spare time for such activities, as I have to work fulltime (36-40 hours a week) to pay the tuition fees, rent etc.
6.4.4 Employment Approximately 69% of students reported themselves as currently working either within or outside the University, with 30% saying they did not work. The number of hours worked per week of those who declared themselves to be working varied widely (Figure 3), with 58 (9% of the total sample population, or 13% of those who worked) reportedly working more than 21 hours per week.
Figure 3: Number of hours worked per week by respondents who worked (n = 443)
19% of those working said that they were not developing new skills as a result of their work, and a further 24% were unsure. Of the remainder who could identify skills, the vast majority were generic, ‘soft’ skills, including communication, teamwork, confidence, people skills, time management, customer service and IT. Some had developed more particular skills, and even been involved in certified training, such as food hygiene and safety or silver service, but these were not referenced to their careers. Perhaps reflecting the nature of the type of part-time and short-term employment typically available to students, only a small number of respondents were able to identify specific skills
relevant to their chosen future careers:
I work in a nursing home so appropriate for my course.
Communication skills, personal care and hygiene.
As I work in an Architects office and I am studying Architectural Technology, it has been a great help and I have learnt a lot more at work regarding how to tackle jobs that are relevant to my subject than I have at Leeds Met.
6.4.5 Tensions between work, ECA and academic study In our introductory section on the current policy context and background to higher education in the UK, we noted that the changing nature of HE means that for many, the economic necessity of high levels of part-time employment means that ‘full-time’ study can never be achieved. From our personal experience as lecturers in HE, we recognise that students struggle to balance these activities, particularly as employers often require them to be flexible in the hours they work. Significant numbers of students reported that work and other The Higher Education Academy 36 activities had caused them to be late for or miss academic provision and deadlines (Table 19). It is evident that fewer problems are caused by work or ECA within the University relative to those outside, but nevertheless they still persist.
Table 19: Impact of work and other ECA on students’ academic activities
6.4.6 Prior cultural capital on entering the institution 22.214.171.124 Influence of parents Parents (or carers) play a key role in developing the embodied cultural capital of their children. Work (or worklessness) patterns have significant consequences for children’s outcomes or lifestyle choices (e.g. Bosco & Bianco, 2005; Ermisch et al., 2004). Parents’ occupation, class and income are significant determinants of educational achievement and access to HE (Reay et al., 2001; Ball et al., 2002), and other parental influences, including gender, educational and social background are critical in students’ choices in higher education (David et al., 2003). Given that parents who have attended university may better understand the field of higher education and the attributes and activities that are valued within it, we can hypothesise that those students with at least one parent who had attended HE (i.e. not first-generation students) might be more likely to engage in and value ECA. However, there is no statistically significant evidence for this for participation in ECA in general, either self-declared (Table 20) or prompted (Table 21), although considering the different types of ECA, there is a suggestion that some types of ECA, most notably volunteering and faith/cultural activities, may be more actively pursued by those students whose parents have a HE background (Table 22).
Reviewing the comments made about how students valued their ECA for their careers (see Section 6.4.3), there is similarly no evidence that the nature of these comments, whether positive or negative, was linked to parental participation in HE. However, parental influence on students’ habitus and capital is clearly not solely a function of their prior educational experience, and Diane Reay and colleagues have shown how occupation, income and class also have a key role. There is research that examines how parents’ particular sporting activities subsequently influence their children (e.g. Auster, 2008), but as we The Higher Education Academy 38 show in Tables 23 to 26, general parental engagement in ECA is also strongly related to student ECA. This relationship holds for both self-declared and prompted student ECA, and when domestic and caring responsibilities are excluded from parental ECA (responsibilities that perhaps define parenthood and are therefore self-evident).
Table 23: Cross-tabulation of parental ECA (prompted) on student participation in ECA (self-declared). Chi-sq = 7.77; df = 1; p = 0.005
Table 24: Cross-tabulation of parental ECA (prompted) excluding domestic and caring responsibilities on student participation in ECA (selfdeclared). Chi-sq = 12.35; df = 1; p 0.001
Table 26: Cross-tabulation of parental ECA (prompted) excluding domestic and caring responsibilities on student participation in ECA (prompted). Chi-sq = 14.21; df = 1; p 0.001
Parental engagement in ECA is a particularly strong influence on students engaging with ECA outside the University (Table 27). This suggests that students who have developed the confidence and skills within their habitus to engage in activities outside the school environment (where institutional, teacher and peer pressure can perhaps mean participation is not entirely voluntary) carry this forward to university, with the consequent potential benefit for graduate outcomes.
Table 27: Variation of type and location of student ECA (prompted) with parental ECA (prompted)
While there is evidence that participation in some kinds of voluntary work is related to social class, we can see in Tables 28 and 29 the (related) result that previous engagement with HE is a strong predictor of whether parents are involved in ECA (and this persists when domestic and caring responsibilities are excluded). We suggest that the result is related because the parents of current students who are in their late teens or early twenties are likely to have attended university in the UK 20 to 30 years ago, before the more recent mass participation and when the student population in HE was more strongly biased towards the middle-classes.
Table 28: Cross-tabulation of parental education and parental participation in ECA (prompted). Chi-sq = 16.61; df = 1; p 0.001
Thus not only do parents who have been to university influence the habitus and increase the cultural capital of their children directly, there is additional benefit mediated through their greater engagement with ECA. We might predict then that the next generation of parents who are first-generation HE students would themselves be more likely to engage in ECA and thereby pass on this intergenerational cultural capital to their offspring. However, the literature shows that the expansion of higher education has been largely achieved through almost universal participation by the middle-classes, with lower socio-economic groups still less likely to participate (Reay et al., 2005; Ball et al., 2002). Our results sound a warning note that class differences in participation in HE may become more entrenched in the future, rather than less so.
126.96.36.199 Influence of previous educational institution The habitus of the school, and teacher expectations in particular, are key to educational outcomes within compulsory-age schooling (Dumais, 2002;
Diamond et al., 2004). The situation is not simple, however, as, for example, parental habitus, notably their educational expectations, may influence teachers’ evaluation of their child’s skills (Dumais, 2006). Nevertheless, the importance of the school environment persists, up to and including older pupils’ choices and decisions made in embarking on a career or beginning higher education (Hodkinson & Sparkes, 1997; Smyth & Hannan, 2007).
When participation in ECA is self-declared, there is a consistent pattern of more students participating than not for those who came via school, except for those who came from FE college, where approximately equal numbers participate or not (Table 30). However, when prompted, the difference disappeared (Table 31) and students with an FE college background showed the same levels of participation as those from other types of institution. This suggests that those from FE are less likely to conceptualise what they do as ECA, and therefore perhaps to value and derive benefit from it. Nor is the result a function of the types of qualification students achieved prior to university. Participation does not vary among those with vocational or academic qualifications (Table 32).
This suggests there is something specific about the habitus of FE that may disadvantage students and merits further research.
Table 32: Variation in participation in ECA with type of prior qualification obtained (see Table 5 for description of categories). Chi-squared = 3.96, df = 3, p = 0.266
6.5 Implications of the findings The findings from the survey reaffirmed our view of the necessity of unpacking some of the complexities of definition of ECA and how they are valued through The Higher Education Academy 42 the collection of qualitative data. In particular the whole issue of what constitutes ECA and the gaps between self-declared and prompted responses in the data suggest the need for considerable exploration, in particular with regard to gender issues and in both caring and employment. The findings that parents own voluntary and social activity was the mediating factor in intergenerational participation patterns, and that schools were also influential, were of considerable interest and suggest the need for a more nuanced understanding. The findings in relation to employment, ECA, and impact on students’ academic activities was pursued as a theme in both student and staff interviews as it suggests that as well as there being considerable benefits from participation in ECA (broadly understood as including employment), there may also be disbenefits or tensions between the academic and ECA.
7. Student perspectives
7.1 Methods We carried out 61 interviews with students. The student questionnaire asked whether respondents would be willing to be interviewed as part of the research and the interviewees were recruited from these respondents. The full demographics of the sample are in listed in Appendix II. In identifying the quotations in the text we have numbered the interviews to preserve anonymity.