Aspiring to Higher Education? The complex views of secondary students:

The present paper emerged from a Q-method evaluation of the 2016-2017 Explore University programme which organised experiences for people of school age who might find value in studying higher education. The range of activities included campus visits, subject taster days, information, guidance and advice sessions in schools and summer schools. The Q-method study investigated the views of participants in Explore University to identify their shared perspectives on applying to university.
This Q-method involved participants sorting a set of statement cards onto a distribution grid shaped as an inverted pyramid. Participants sorted the cards based on how much they agreed with each statement. Data was collected on the participants’ perspectives then analysed collectively to produce consensus viewpoints which have statistical significance. In total, 46 secondary school students (aged 14-16 years) sorted 36 statements onto an online distribution grid.
The conference paper will present the study’s key findings that included four groups of participants that hold differing perspectives on aspiring to HE. The study found that 26 of the 41 participants who loaded on factors 2 to 4 believed the Explore University programme had positively supported them to consider university as an option for them. The rest of the students held a strong and longstanding perspective that they would attend university. The study also found that none of the participants were heavily influenced by the perspectives of their family and friends. Instead students were influenced more by their perspectives of themselves as learners.