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Navigating choices to a professional career: the role of subject choice in widening access to universities and the professions

Dilnot, Catherine Elizabeth; (2019) Navigating choices to a professional career: the role of subject choice in widening access to universities and the professions. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the role of subject choice in widening access to elite universities and to an elite professional financial services firm. The analysis takes place at three transition points in the educational trajectory of young people: at 16+, 18+ and at graduation from university. It provides new evidence about these transitions in three ways. First, using a taxonomy of A-levels developed for this thesis, it uses administrative population data for three cohorts of English students to examine the relationship between social background and A-level subject choices categorised according to their published efficacy for university entry. Less privileged young people are less likely to take A-levels universities say they prefer, but the considerable observed gap is largely accounted for by prior attainment and choices of subjects and qualification types at 14-16. Prior attainment is also of primary importance at the second point of transition, at 18+, but analysis using linked national school and university data suggests that A-level subject choices do make a difference to ranking of university attended, over and above attainment. Finally, the importance of prestige of university and the subject of study in the third transition, to graduate employment in an elite profession is considered, using newly available applications and admissions data from a large professional financial services firm. Again, the large raw gap in success rates by university type is almost entirely accounted for by prior attainment, although degree course subject plays a minor role. The direct effect of A-level subject choice is negligible at this transition. The overall thrust of this thesis is that prior attainment and earlier qualifications choices have consequences at each transition, but, over and above attainment, A-level choices can affect high status university entry, and hence, to some extent, gaining a top graduate traineeship.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Navigating choices to a professional career: the role of subject choice in widening access to universities and the professions
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis, namely Chapter 5 and appendix 8
Keywords: A-level Subject choice, Access to university, Access to the professions
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10066217
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