Reproducing advantage: the perspective of English school leavers on studying abroad

Russell King, Allan Findlay, Jill Ahrens, Mairead Dunne

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    72 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper presents results of a questionnaire survey of 1400 Year 13 (final-year) school and sixth-form pupils in two contrasting areas of England, which asked them about their thoughts and plans to study at university abroad. Key questions that the survey sought to answer were the following. How many and what proportion of all higher education (HE) applicants, apply, or consider applying, to university outside the UK? What are their reasons for doing so? What are their distinguishing characteristics as regards type of school (state vs. private), academic record, parental socio-occupational background and prior contacts abroad? The questionnaire data were supported, but occasionally contradicted, by interviews with school staff members responsible for coordinating and advising on the HE application process. Approximately 3% of pupils apply to study abroad (most also apply to UK universities) and another 10% consider applying but do not do so. North America, Australia and Ireland are favoured destinations; not mainland, non- English-speaking Europe. Quality of university and desire for adventure are the most important motivations. Decisions to apply abroad are strongly correlated to the academic results of pupils (the best apply), to prior connections abroad (travel, holidays, residence abroad, etc.) and to a range of overlapping indicators of parental wealth and social class. The theoretical and policy implications of the research are also considered. Study abroad creates an 'elite within an elite' and works against government agendas of widening participation. On the other hand, English students' foreign experience potentially enhances their interculturalism and graduate labour market competitiveness, yet raises spectres of 'brain drain' of the 'brightest and best'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-181
    Number of pages21
    JournalGlobalisation, Societies and Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


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