A critical investigation of access to social work students' post-compulsory education and career choices

Dillon, Jean (2007) A critical investigation of access to social work students' post-compulsory education and career choices. DProf thesis, Institute of Education, University of London. [Thesis]

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This IFS investigated the post-compulsory education and career choices of a sample of ‘access to social work’ students at an FE college with which I have professional links. A qualitative methodology was used to interview seven students, and quantitative methods were used to analyse a social background questionnaire. The following research questions were posed: (1) Are the post-compulsory education decisions that ‘access to social work’ students make influenced by particular ‘turning points’?; (2) Why do such students’ choose ‘caring’ routes to HE?; (3) Are there any interconnections between ‘turning points’ and the pursuit of ‘caring’ routes to HE? and (4) How do ‘non-traditional’ students consider they are depicted in widening participation policy discourse and more generally?

Significant findings include, post-compulsory education and career decision-making are generally inextricably linked, complex, non-linear and unique to the individual. Decisions in these areas are often the result of significant life events characterised by particular ‘turning points’, which can be both ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’. However, the more cumulative effects of what I termed ‘secondary turning points’ had the most impact on the development of self-identity and caring dispositions. Students’ motivation to pursue particular education and ‘caring’ options can be classified as follows: ‘turning bad experiences into good’, ‘gradual recognition’, ‘the philanthropic drive’ and ‘the education imperative’, suggesting influential factors are varied.

Extreme competition for places, problems with basic skills and limited economic, social and cultural capital created considerable barriers to higher education entry for the students in my study, a situation that has arguably been compounded by the marketisation of higher education. Only one student’s application to study social work at a post-1992 University was successful, with the others having to consider taking longer routes to achieve their goals. Whilst social reproduction is a recognised problem among ‘non-traditional’ students, it may be a bigger issue than is currently recognised among students pursuing specific vocational routes, resulting in these students being doubly disadvantaged. My findings are pertinent to my professional practice within a post-1992 university, suggesting that ‘access to social work’ students need to be valued for the contribution they can make, and that more needs to be done to support their progression to higher education. Whilst more joint-working between higher education institutions and FE colleges may help, more direct government action is needed to address the pressing problems of social reproduction identified in this study.

Item Type: Thesis (DProf)
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education
B. > Theses
Item ID: 4794
Depositing User: Dr Jean Dillon
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2010 15:09
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 02:01
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/4794

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