This chapter draws on findings from a comparative, qualitative research project investigating the decision-making of different groups of English higher education students in central England as they graduated from a Russell group university (46 interviewees) and a Post-92 university (28 interviewees). Half of the students graduated in 2014 (lower tuition fees regime) and the other half graduated in 2015 (higher tuition fees regime). The students interviewed were sampled by socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore students’ future plans and perceptions of their future job prospects. Despite higher debt levels, the 2015 sample of Russell Group graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds had a positive view of their labour market prospects and a high proportion had achieved either a graduate job or a place on a postgraduate course prior to graduation. This group had saved money whilst studying. The 2015 sample of Post-1992 University graduates (from both lower and average socio-economic backgrounds) were worried about their level of debt, future finances and labour market prospects. This chapter raises questions about whether a fairer university finance system, involving lower levels of debt for graduates from less advantaged backgrounds, might avoid some graduates’ transitions to adulthood being so strongly influenced by financial anxieties.
Vigurs, K., Jones, S., Everitt, J. and Harris, D. (2018), "Higher Fees, Higher Debts: Unequal Graduate Transitions in England?", Riddell, S., Minty, S., Weedon, E. and Whittaker, S. (Ed.) Higher Education Funding and Access in International Perspective (Great Debates in Higher Education), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 81-98. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78754-651-620181005
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