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Markets, selection and equity: how reputation and popularity influence student admissions and recruitment in universities in England

Barham, Eleanor (2011) Markets, selection and equity: how reputation and popularity influence student admissions and recruitment in universities in England. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This research investigates how university selection practices vary according to institutional reputation and course popularity through an examination of English university admissions and recruitment policies and practices. It seeks to evaluate what implications this has for equity in terms of student access to higher education. The research examines data from semi-structured interviews carried out in 2008/09 with admissions and recruitment from staff working at four case study institutions, selected to reflect some of the diversity in the HE market. Admissions policies and practices using information given on University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) forms, interviews, conditional offers and after A Level results have been published, are analysed. This is complemented with a multivariate analysis of UCAS data for students seeking to enter higher education in 2006/07 to test the generalisability of the qualitative findings. Quantitative analyses show how the use of discretion in conditional offers is associated with student background characteristics, course popularity and institutional reputation. Following this, institutional recruitment practices are analysed, first through an examination of ‘general’ recruitment policies and practices aimed at the consumer market as a whole, followed by an examination of the case universities’ widening participation programmes. This includes an analysis of the institutions’ access agreements. Finally, the motivations underpinning the behaviour of admissions and recruitment staff working at the case universities are discussed. Whether self-interest or altruism influences staff behaviour is analysed, alongside a consideration of the role that government incentives play in regulating university behaviour. The thesis concludes that, while some admissions and recruitment practices are likely to further equity of access for students from different social and educational backgrounds, changes can be made to increase equity of access to higher education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Eleanor Barham
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: West, Anne and Shiner, Michael

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