22 SES 03 A, Drop-outs and Delayed Completion
The link between a higher education degree and graduate level employability has received much attention amongst higher education institutions and policy makers (see for example, Robbins, 1963, Dearing, 1996, Yorke, 2006). This focus on employability has resulted in many institutions incorporating volunteering and placement opportunities within their degree courses to enable students to develop transferable graduate level skills, and gain valuable work experience. As an outcome, students should develop a range of transferable skills appropriate to graduate level employability. A focus on employability aligns closely with principles of human capital (Becker 1975), and many are critical of it (see Atkins, 1999; Morley, 2001), however, employability is now firmly embedded within a high number of higher education courses.
The main focus of attention on exploring employability skills has detracted from the broader learning and role that takes place during placement opportunities, particularly how students build on the learning in subsequent stages of their degree course (Little and Harvey, 2006). HE participation and attainment rates of marginalised groups have been identified as problematic (Archer, et al, 2003; DBIS, 2014). Despite numerous interventions to support the higher educational experiences of non-traditional groups (see, for example, Byrom 2009), there is limited evidence to demonstrate how targeted interventions can support BME communities in particular to engage with higher education.
This study sought to explore the experiences of higher education students undertaking a placement in an educational setting that supported BME young people, aged 5-16. Utilising a Bourdieuian approach (1990) it focused specifically on how higher education students engaged in their placement as part of their HE course, and how they supported BME young people to enhance their engagement with education. The following research question was developed to support the research: To what extent can higher education students contribute to an intervention programme that seeks to support BME young people in their education?
Students undertaking education-related undergraduate courses at our post 1992 University, based in the East Midlands, are required to complete a placement during the second year of their course for a minimum of 30 days. A number of students identified a charity they wished to undertake their placement with that provides targeted intervention programmes to support Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) young people with an education and health related focus. Its ambition is to develop the confidence and competence in education practices of the target population, and to aid the development of better understandings of different cultural communities. The charity actively recruits and encourages HE students to volunteer at their intervention activities by acting as role models and mentors, providing small group and one-to-one support for the BME young people. The sessions take place every Saturday and Sunday during term time.
Archer, L. (2003). Social Class and Higher Education. Higher Education and Social Class: Issues of exclusion and inclusion. L. Archer, M. Hutchings and A. Ross. London, RoutledgeFalmer: 5 - 20. Atkins, M (1999) Oven-ready and self-basting: taking stock of employability skills. Teaching in Higher Education 4 (2) 267-280. Becker, G S (1975 Human Capital, Chicago: Chicago University Press. BERA (2011) Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research 2011, Available from: https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publications/ethical-guidelines-for-educational-research-2011 Accessed June 2015. Bourdieu, P (1990). The Logic of Practice. Cambridge, Polity Press. Byrom, T (2009): ‘I don’t want to go to a crummy little university’: Social class, higher education choice and the paradox of widening participation. Improving Schools, 12 (3). DBIS (2014) Widening Participation in Higher Education. London: DBIS. Dearing, R (1996) Review of Qualifications for 16-19 year olds [Full Report], London: School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. The Robbins Report (1963) Higher Education Report of the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister under the Chairmanship of Lord Robbins, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Little, B. and Harvey, L (2006) Learning through work placements and beyond, York: Higher Education Academy. Morley, L. (2001) Producing new workers: quality, equality and employability in higher education. Quality in Higher Education, 7 (2), 131-138. Yorke, M. (2006) Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not, York: Higher Education Academy.
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