What factors influence Fair Access students to consider university and what do they look for?
Journal: Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning
This paper reports the findings of a participatory mixed methods study into the perceptions of Fair Access students on the factors which led them to consider accessing Higher Education. The study consisted of focus groups with thirteen first year Fair Access Students (female n=9, male n=4) studying at the university. The data from which was analysed thematically, identifying five themes (what others say, going to university to escape, influence of habitus, location and what the university offered). These five themes formed the basis of a Likert type questionnaire which was completed by 239 students (n=168 Fair Access, n=71 non-Fair Access). It was evident that students from Fair Access backgrounds have the same high aspirations as their non-Fair Access counterparts, as do their families. However they can be discouraged and disadvantaged in the application system due to a variety of reasons; within compulsory education (perceptions of teachers as well as a lack of careers advice and support), intuitional habitus of Higher Education Institutions (provision of pre-access information and support) as well as not identifying themselves as coming from a widening participation background, thus reducing the likelihood of a contextual offer. All of these could impact on the ability of an individual from a WP background being successful in obtaining a place to study in Higher Education.