Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2381/31542
Title: What makes a successful undergraduate? The relationship between student characteristics, degree subject and academic success at university
Authors: Smith, Emma
White, Patrick
First Published: 1-Sep-2014
Publisher: Wiley For: British Educational Research Association (BERA)
Citation: Smith, E. and White, P. (2014), What makes a successful undergraduate? The relationship between student characteristics, degree subject and academic success at university. British Educational Research Journal. doi: 10.1002/berj.3158
Abstract: This paper contributes to the empirical evidence on participation and attainment in higher education by reviewing the patterns of entry and success of undergraduate students. It examines the characteristics of entrants to different subjects and considers the role that subject studied plays in determining the likelihood of graduating with a ‘good’ degree. The data used were drawn from the administrative records of over 38,000 UK-domiciled undergraduate students from one ‘elite’ British university. Despite considerable betweensubject variation in degree outcomes, multivariate analysis of the relationship between students’ social and academic characteristics and achievement at university revealed that, once social background and prior attainment had been controlled for, the subject students studied added little explanatory power to models predicting final degree classifications. Differences in degree outcome were most strongly related to attainment on entry to higher education, sex and ethnicity. In contrast with attainment during the earlier phases of education, the relationship with occupational class was relatively weak. Disparities between the proportion of higher level classifications awarded in different subjects can be largely explained by the background characteristics of the students who choose (and are accepted) to study on these degrees. This finding has particular implications for policies aimed at increasing both the number and quality of STEM graduates in what is often argued to be a ‘shortage’ or ‘priority’ area.
DOI Link: 10.1002/berj.3158
ISSN: 0141-1926
1469-3518
Links: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/berj.3158/abstract
http://hdl.handle.net/2381/31542
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Archived with reference to SHERPA/RoMEO and publisher website. © 2014 British Educational Research Association. This is the accepted version of the following article: Smith, E. and White, P. (2014), What makes a successful undergraduate? The relationship between student characteristics, degree subject and academic success at university. British Educational Research Journal. doi: 10.1002/berj.3158, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/berj.3158/abstract
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Education

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