The purpose of this paper is to study relative age effects (RAEs) in a selected sample of university students. The majority of education systems across the globe adopt age-related cut-off points for eligibility. This strategy has received criticism for (dis)advantaging those older children born closer to the “cut-off” date for entry into an academic year and for promoting the existence of RAEs. To date, there are only two studies which have examined the relative age phenomenon in a university setting specifically.
Data of student records from the years 2006-2009 were analysed. Specifically this included date of birth, The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) entry points, gender, grade point averages and final year degree classification.
Analysis of data collected from 460 university students revealed a significant RAE reversal. Specifically, relatively younger students achieved significantly higher first-class honours degrees than relatively older students (p < 0.01).
Limitations include the following: the sample was modest and restricted to only 460 students located within one of the universities five faculties. Recent RAE studies in education have recruited thousands of students; therefore, these findings may not be totally representative of the broader UK university population.
This is only the second UK-based study to examine RAEs from a university perspective. The findings highlight an interesting and new insight into the RAE phenomenon and one that warrants further scientific attention.
The authors are grateful for the incisive and detailed comments from two anonymous reviewers.
Roberts, S. and Stott, T. (2015), "A new factor in UK students’ university attainment: the relative age effect reversal?", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 295-305. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-01-2013-0008Download as .RIS
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