A comparative study of students’ entry motivation at universities in England, Germany and Portugal

This paper outlines the rationale, aims and methodological approach adopted in a comparative research study currently being undertaken by the author. Despite a large number of studies focusing on the changing nature and landscape of higher education (HE), research scrutinising students’ reasons for entering HE still remains a relatively under-explored area (Round, 2005:9; Kennett, Reed and Lam, 2011:65). This study aims thus to investigate this issue and has a particular interest in exploring the perceived impact of the current economic climate on students’ expressed reasons for study. The following 3 research questions underpin the enquiry:

  1. How can university students’ motivation in the 3 countries be described?
  2. What motivational patterns, if any, are evident within and across the 3 national settings?
  3. To what extent and in what ways does student entry motivation appear to be influenced by current economic discourses?

Examining student views in three contrasting socio-economic settings will hopefully shed some light on how current discourses of austerity penetrate student understandings, expectations and aspirations in Europe, and an attempt will be made to identify and account for similarities and differences. The transnational focus therefore seeks to provide a lens on how these influences and discourses may be culturally mediated and inflected. The paper offers an overview of key themes and issues identified in existing literature, followed by a description of the project’s design. It is hoped that a presentation and analysis of initial survey findings will be possible by the time of the conference.