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The Learner Voice Conference HE in FE: Why students choose to study their Higher Education programme in a Further Educat

The Learner Voice Conference HE in FE: Why students choose to study their Higher Education programme in a Further Education college – a case study 15 October 2008 Ashford International Hotel Aims

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The Learner Voice Conference HE in FE: Why students choose to study their Higher Education programme in a Further Educat

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  1. The Learner Voice Conference HE in FE: Why students choose to study their Higher Education programme in a Further Education college – a case study 15 October 2008 Ashford International Hotel

  2. Aims • to identify the factors which have made the sample group of students choose to study their higher education course in an FE college environment. • explore some of the attitudes of staff teaching within this environment to establish their views of what differentiates such provision • to see if parallels can be drawn between both sets of attitudes • provide recommendations which can be utilised to supplement existing research and inform future marketing of this provision.

  3. Research limitations/implications • This study took place within a single institution so the findings will be limited in terms of transferability of findings. No claims for relevance or validity of conclusions can be made beyond the case study setting. However, the college is typical of its type and other institutions may well find parallels which can be drawn from within this study. • The study was limited to programmes operated in partnership with one higher education institution (HEI) and does not necessarily reflect the broad spectrum of higher education operating within the college. The questionnaires returned gave a good cross section of programmes and genders although not all programmes were represented. There was a 30% response rate to the questionnaires and this included a disproportionately higher response rate from students aged 18-21 which could lead to a suggestion of responder bias affecting the validity of some findings.

  4. Methodology • Discussions with staff • Focus group meeting with small group of students • Large scale survey of students undertaken by distribution of a questionnaire • Small number of semi-structured interviews to follow up • Case study site selected to give access to a large number of students studying a wide range of programmes of study. Demonstrates a good breadth of learner ‘types’ and modes of study

  5. Discussions with Staff Key Themes; • Location • Cost • Small Groups • Less Intimidating Environment • Direct Progression

  6. Student Focus Group: So why did you choose to come and study here? Well, I had been here before. I was coming to the end of my course and I went to see what else I could do next. Found this – applied, and here I am!’ (student previously undertaken NVQ 3 at the college) I wanted to do nursing but that course doesn’t start yet so I thought I’ll try this instead. (student previously undertaken NVQ 3 at the college)

  7. Student Focus Group • In each instance, even those students who had moved to this programme as a direct and unbroken transition from previous study at the college, the learner had identified the existence of this programme for themselves and had made all necessary enquiries to apply and enrol.

  8. Student Focus Group • The students had all found the programme of study by using the college prospectus, either in its paper-based form, or via the on-line version. When questioned, no one had found the course via materials published by the University. I was looking to see what I could do at the College, and I found this • One learner reported stumbling on the course rather by accident: My friend brought the prospectus home because she wanted to do the course. I read it and thought it sounded really interesting – I really wanted to do it too!

  9. Student Focus Group • When challenged to see if they had looked elsewhere, almost the entire group admitted that they had not. Some students became almost defensive at this point and felt the need to justify their actions • But I work night shifts, this is great because I can come off shift and come over her on a Friday. I couldn’t do it if I had to go any where else • I couldn’t go away to Uni or anything – I have young children so this is perfect. I can fit it around them. I drop them off at school and come here. Uni would have been every day and it’s too far – I can’t do that yet

  10. Student Focus Group • Little evidence of classic search behaviours • Information received via college marketing materials, not those of the HEI • Location made the college a primary candidate in their thought process • Factors such as CoVE status or reduced fees had no impact on decision making process

  11. Student Survey • Questionnaire distributed to 555 (out of 590) learners via their programme leaders • 166 questionnaires returned; response rate of 30% • Responses confirmed that the higher education offered at the college was a positive, active choice for most of the students enrolled there. It was the first choice of 91% of learners within the sample; 78% had not even applied elsewhere • Only 29% of students attended an Open Day.

  12. Student Survey

  13. Student Survey • Location was seen to be the most important factor influencing student choice. In many cases, implicit cost savings associated with proximity to home were raised as an issue and embedded in this category. There were very few instances raised where a student would have been prepared to travel ‘away’ to study this course. If the course had not been available at the college, or elsewhere locally, then they would either not have studied, or found a different course to study. Students in the majority of cases were prepared to compromise their course of study for the opportunity to study locally. • There were three clearly identifiable exceptions to this trend

  14. Student Survey • This case study found that learners taking HE in FE were very goal oriented. They had chosen to study courses which were highly vocational and they saw clear links to their career aims and employability. “It will better my career prospects” “When I finish this course I’ll get a hefty pay-rise” • Employer support was variable. High levels of support clustered in the curriculum areas of Building Studies and Education

  15. Student Survey • students did not feel that the social life presented by studying at the college was an important factor in influencing their choice. However, once they had joined the programme they did find this aspect of student life more valuable than they had previously considered it would be. I knew there was no social scene but it is close to my home so I can go out in my own town (TV Production student)

  16. Conclusions • Moogan et al (2001) and Souter and Turner (2002) amongst others, have identified a complex series of behaviours which students undertake in narrowing down their options towards their final selection of where and what to study. This case study has uncovered a large number of learners whose purchase behaviour is more closely associated with the psychology of the impulse buyer, rather than the considered balance approach of standard consumer purchase behaviours.

  17. Conclusions • Location, with respect to proximity to home is the most important factor influencing student choice. • Open Days and Events, in their current format, are not proving effective marketing tools for Higher Education programmes • Most current students displayed little awareness, prior to enrolment, of the potential benefits of upfront savings associated with cheaper fees, nor of the increased levels of support and smaller class sizes they would gain by studying in the college • With a few notable course exceptions, Most students find out about their higher education course via the college publicity materials, rather than those produced by the university

  18. Conclusions • It should be noted that internal progression is very low when compared with other FECs eg City College Norwich, where a 2006 study by John Cockburn confirmed that ‘most of the HE students have come out of the FE provision’. It would seem that this is a largely untapped market, especially with regard to adults on part time courses

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