Perceptions of learner identity amongst students progressing from a Foundation degree to Honours top-up

Barrow, Charlotte and Ashwin, Paul (2018) Perceptions of learner identity amongst students progressing from a Foundation degree to Honours top-up. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This study examines perceptions of learner identity and the factors that influence and shape this amongst direct entrants (‘top-up’ students) from Foundation Degree (FD) study in Further Education Colleges (FECs) into year three of an undergraduate Education degree in a large post-1992 Higher Education Institution (HEI). Since the origination of Foundation Degrees (FDs) in 2000-2001, enrolment numbers have borne witness to rapid peaks, a trend that has declined significantly in recent years. Despite the unique temporal nature of this brisk emergence and growth within the UK Higher Education (HE) sector, there is an absence of studies that scrutinise the significance and impact of dual HE experiences for these learners. This creates an opportunity to examine the nature of the capital these students bring with them and the extent to which this is valued, as studies in this area tend to identify these learners as deficient in the skills, knowledge and experience required to flourish in an HEI. Through employing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), this thesis presents the findings of interviews with eight top-up learners progressing from five different FECs at the end of their Honours level year. The study uses the concepts of institutional habitus and capital (identity, social and cultural) to understand their experiences, and illustrates the complexity of the dual institutional habitus these students are required to navigate, and the impact of this upon perceptions of the self as a learner. Findings show that exposure to contrasting institutional habitus and the peripheral nature of participation these learners experience has significant consequences for their inclusion in HE, yet this can be mediated to some degree through the social capital top-up students bring to their learning at an HEI, which can serve as an important contributor to validate their sense of self as authentic learners. This study therefore presents an analysis of a distinctly changeable period of HE provision that is now subject to contraction within a broader climate of farreaching HE proposals and scrutiny, and so makes a timely contribution to debates around diversity and the nature of transformation possible as a result of HE participation.

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Thesis (PhD)
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20 Jan 2022 09:56
Last Modified:
17 May 2024 01:55