Since the late 1990’s, both nationwide and local initiatives have been focussed on reducing the disparity in higher education (HE) participation for underrepresented groups. More commonly known as ‘widening participation’ (WP), these initiatives increasingly focused on raising the awareness, aspirations and attainment levels of young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. It has been widely recognised that background characteristics may contribute to determining a young person’s aspirations, influencing the educational or employment pathways they follow in the future.
This study explores the background characteristics and aspirations of student’s studying vocational programmes (BTEC National Diploma) at further education (FE) colleges in the south west of England. The findings of the student sample demonstrate firstly that females are over three times more likely to aspire to attend university than males. Students who attend secondary schools with higher achievement rates are more likely to aspire to attend HE, and students who have two parents that have HE qualifications are over three times more likely to aspire to attend university themselves. The study concludes more needs to be done in order to raise aspirations and support young people to attend HE, especially those young people currently studying post-16 vocational pathways.
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