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ERIC Number: EJ1071049
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Aug
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0141-1926
What Makes a Successful Undergraduate? The Relationship between Student Characteristics, Degree Subject and Academic Success at University
Smith, Emma; White, Patrick
British Educational Research Journal, v41 n4 p686-708 Aug 2015
This paper contributes to the empirical evidence on participation and attainment in higher education by reviewing the patterns of entry and success of undergraduate students. It examines the characteristics of entrants to different subjects and considers the role that subject studied plays in determining the likelihood of graduating with a "good" degree. The data used were drawn from the administrative records of over 38,000 UK-domiciled undergraduate students from one "elite" British university. Despite considerable between-subject variation in degree outcomes, multivariate analysis of the relationship between students' social and academic characteristics and achievement at university revealed that once social background and prior attainment had been controlled for, the subject students studied added little explanatory power to models predicting final degree classifications. Differences in degree outcome were most strongly related to attainment on entry to higher education, sex and ethnicity. In contrast with attainment during the earlier phases of education, the relationship with occupational class was relatively weak. Disparities between the proportion of higher level classifications awarded in different subjects can be largely explained by the background characteristics of the students who choose (and are accepted) to study on these degrees. This finding has particular implications for policies aimed at increasing both the number and quality of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates in what is often argued to be a "shortage" or "priority" area.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A