Still focusing on the “essential 2:1”: exploring student attitudes to extra-curricular activities

Paul Greenbank (Centre for Learning and Teaching, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Publication date: 16 March 2015



In order to compete for positional advantage in the graduate labour market students need more than a good degree classification. The evidence suggests that participation in extra-curricular activities (ECAs) can have a significant influence on labour market outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which undergraduates engage in ECAs during their studies and analyses the factors influencing their participation in such activities.


This study is based on a sample of 21 undergraduates in the Business School at a “new” university. These students completed two questionnaires in their first year of study. These were followed-up by in-depth interviews which were carried out in their first and final year of study.


The study found that many of these students were not participating in ECAs because they lacked an appreciation of the value of ECAs to graduate employers. The students were also influenced by social and peer norms, especially the fact that their peers were not engaging in ECAs. Finally, the students often exhibited an extrinsic locus of control and dependency which was not conducive to engagement in ECAs.

Research limitations/implications

The generalisability of the findings may be seen as limited by the fact that the study is based on a relatively small sample of students from one university. This research, however, provides detailed insights into the factors influencing student participation in ECAs and adds new perspectives to this under-researched area.

Practical implications

The paper concludes by suggesting a range of inter-related approaches that higher education institutions could adopt in order to improve student participation in ECAs. These include careers education at all stages of the students’ studies; the use of unfreezing techniques in conjunction with case studies; a more substantial role for personal tutors; and the development of an institutional habitus that encourages autonomy and agency.


Despite the importance of ECAs to graduate employers there have been relatively few studies into the factors influencing undergraduate participation in such activities.



Greenbank, P. (2015), "Still focusing on the “essential 2:1”: exploring student attitudes to extra-curricular activities", Education + Training, Vol. 57 No. 2, pp. 184-203.



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