The privilege of choice: how prospective college students’ financial concerns influence their choice of Higher Education institution and subject choice in England

Guest Speakers: Prof Claire Callender, UCL IOE and Dr Gabriela Melis, University of Liverpool

Date: Tuesday 26th May 2022

Time: 13:00-14:00

Location: Online (Zoom)

A hallmark of English higher education (HE) over the last twenty years has been policies seeking to increase provider competition and student choice. Central to this has been student funding policy changes, leading to rising college costs.

This presentation asks if prospective HE students’ concerns about college costs and the financial strategies they anticipate using because of them, widen or limit their choice of HE institution and subject of study.

It calls on the findings from a nationally representative survey of 1,374 English college applicants and uses latent class analysis to develop a typology of students’ planned financial coping mechanisms: Minimizing costs; Managing costs and maximizing returns; and No financial concerns; which prove to be socially stratified.

Minimizing costs students are the most disadvantaged and adopt mechanisms which constrain their choices of where and what to study, unlike students in the other groups. Thus, government policies aimed at improving student choice potentially have the opposite effect for the most disadvantaged, perpetuating existing inequalities in access to, and the experience of, HE.

The presentation is dedicated to Dr Geoff Mason who was involved in the original survey of English college applicants.

About the Speakers

Claire Callender is Professor of Higher Education Policy at UCL IoE and Birkbeck. She is Deputy Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, an international research centre funded by the ESRC and a member of LLAKES. Claire’s research focuses on higher education student finances and its consequences. She was a New Century Fulbright Scholar at the Harvard, USA from 2007-2008. In 2017, she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to higher education.

Gabriella Melis is Lecturer in Statistics for Public Health Data Analysis at the University of Liverpool. Gabriella’s research focuses on the effect of socioeconomic inequalities on child development and life chances, as well as on the assessment of poverty, adverse childhood experiences and their effect on children’s involvement with social care services.