State and private school university approaches compared

State schools need to move beyond a “narrow focus” on exams in order to help increase aspirations for pupils to attend university

December 30, 2014

Source: Alamy

That is among the conclusions of University of Sussex researchers, who have explored the “differentiated patterns of HE application” which distinguish independent from state schools.

To throw light on the issue, Máiréad Dunne, Russell King and Jill Ahrens collected data from 1,400 Year 13 students in 18 Sussex and Leicestershire schools and carried out in-depth interviews with 15 teacher higher education advisers.

In every case, they sought information about the types of institutions the pupils applied to; “the way the application process was managed”; and how advisers “explained the HE application process and outcomes for their students”. They then compared the findings from the 11 independent and seven state schools.

The results are set out in an article in the November 2014 issue of Studies in Higher Education, “Applying to higher education: comparisons of independent and state schools”.

While both types of school “showed appreciation of experiences outside the formal curriculum”, those within the independent sector showed “a more concerted and co-ordinated effort to provide these experiences and capitalise on them”.

More generally, “independent schools assume a HE career for their students, invest more resources, start the process earlier, are more proactive in increasing their students’ capital and aspire to get their students into higher-status universities and courses”.

In state schools, by contrast, “the approach to HE applications appeared to be less ambitious even for the high achieving students”, which only works to legitimise arbitrary “relations within and between the educational and social hierarchies”.

The evidence they present, the authors conclude, has important implications for those committed to widening access.

“An individualised approach to improving examination performance and encouraging less privileged students to apply” will never be enough without taking account of the social factors which influence “the production of individual choices”.

It remained crucial to “shift the narrow focus of state schools, teachers and pupils beyond only the examinations”.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Reader's comments (2)

Has anyone ever factored in the huge advantages private schools enjoy when it comes to funding and facilities? The playing field (if you can find one in a state school) is hardly level.
Notably, besides exam results, the web sites of Private Independent sector schools tend to strongly feature extra curricular activities, sports fixtures and results (plus their usually excellent facilities). Similarly, the better performers in the State sector, usually. Maybe suggesting more inter-sector cultural collaborations and extra time/resources needed for these activities.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Senior Lecturer: Architecture (Cultural Content) NORWICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Head of Department of Physics ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY
Lecturer in University Study Skills UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest