A study has found that under-privileged teens are more likely to give up on university than privileged students of the same academic excellence level.

The Study

A study by scientists from the Institute of Education in UCL (IOE), found that under-privileged students are more likely to give up on ambitions regarding university than privileged students with the same level of academic excellence.

The study analyzed students’ expectations and attitudes towards university applications changes from 14 to 17 years of age. Using information from the “Longitudinal Study of Young People in England,” it found that students at a higher socio-economic status were much more likely to be encouraged towards university in light of getting higher test scores, whereas their lower socio-economic counterparts were “less responsive” to promising test results.

It found that the least advantaged of students were over twice as likely to switch from “likely to apply” to “unlikely to apply” than the most advantaged of the group. The most advantaged of the group were also twice as likely to switch from “unlikely to apply to “likely to apply.”

Comments on the Findings

The lead author of the study, Jake Anders, from UCL, commented saying: “These findings suggest that part of the socioeconomic difference in university applications has its roots during the period when potential applicants are aged between 14 and 17 and, as such, it’s not too late to target policies at this age group to try and narrow the gap.”

“Intervening early to maintain expectations, rather than attempting to raise them later, is more likely to be successful as this will ensure individuals engage in steps that keep them on track to be in a position to apply for university.”

“Sixteen could also be a key age for interventions. This is a difficult point in time to reach young people as many move between educational institutions or leave full-time education altogether.

“However, it may be the case that providing fresh guidance in the light of exam results could play an important part in ensuring young people get the right educational message.”

What Can We Do?

According to Oxford’s Education Review, this socio-economic disadvantage could be combatted if 16-year-old students were provided with guidance according to their academic levels.

Jake Anders also said: “After age 16 exams is a challenging time to reach young people, as many move between educational institutions or leave full-time education altogether. However, if schools are able to help pupils understand the context of their exam results this could help to keep them on track.”


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