Young people's pathways to Higher Education: Geographical Location and Mobility as Social Justice Issues

Rosie Alexander

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Adolescents making decisions about higher education are typically expected to make rational economic decisions about which course offers them the ‘best’ prospects. Very little attention is given to decision making as it happens within the context of a student’s whole life, or to the ways that students are making decisions embedded from within their wider social, cultural and community contexts. This paper will explore how decisions about higher education are actually made by students, with a focus on how the often overlooked issues of geography and place are salient in this decision making process. Drawing on data from an ongoing research project this paper will consider how living in a relatively remote and rural island location influences the
university choice of students. In this project 22 participants were recruited who had been resident in the British Orkney or Shetland islands prior to entering higher education. The research utilised longitudinal qualitative interviews (LQIs), and participants were interviewed at the point of graduation and approximately one year later. Data were analysed thematically. This paper will focus on data coded under the theme of ‘university choice’. The data shows that students do not choose equally between universities in any geographical location, but have a preference for ‘familiar enough’ locations. Therefore, the data shows that the geographical location of universities is an important influence in university choice. Further, the spatial preferences and relative mobilities of students is influenced by their socio-cultural position and personal backgrounds. As a result, this paper argues that for educators and careers advisers to support young people effectively in making the transition to higher education, they must adopt a critical position informed by social justice perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2020
EventEARA 2020 : Adolescence in a rapidly changing world - Porto, Portugal
Duration: 2 Sept 20205 Nov 2020


ConferenceEARA 2020


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