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An investigation into the factors that attract young students to the Open University and support their studies to module completion

  • Dutton, Susan
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
OpenGrey Repository


The research investigates the reasons why students aged 18-24 come to the Open University and the factors that influence their decision. It also examines their learning experience and the key factors that lead to successful study. The research population comprised new Open University students with no previous higher education qualification, studying one of four introductory level modules in the Faculties of Arts, Social Sciences, Health and Social Care or Science. Data were compared by module and from students aged 18-20 (Group 1) and 21-24 (Group 2). An online survey was administered to 827 students and yielded 231 responses. In addition, 40 students volunteered to participate in semi-structured email interviews. The discussion of the data was focused on the three theoretical concepts of transitions, networks of intimacy and cultural capital. The findings indicate that students' decisions about higher education study were mainly influenced by family members and friends. They were studying principally to improve their job or career prospects although many were seeking to redress negative educational experiences in the past and to prove to themselves and others that they could study successfully at higher education level. They were attracted to the Open University by its flexibility, cost-effectiveness and open access policy. Respondents' study experience was largely very positive but students in Group 1 in particular missed face -to-face tutor contact and social integration with other students. The majority of respondents in both groups expressed confidence about their progress on the module although women in particular had underlying doubts about their academic ability. Successful students had developed a number of coping strategies for managing the conflicting demands of work, study and family. / EThOS - Electronic Theses Online Service / GB / United Kingdom

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