Raby, John (2016) The Effects of 2012 Tuition Fee Reform On Choices Made By Further Education Students Contemplating Participation in Higher Education: A Case Study. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This study examines the educational choices made by some of the first cohort of further education students at an art college to face fees of up to £9,000 per annum for higher education study. Focusing on lower socio-economic status students, potentially most easily deterred by increased fees and debt, it explores the influences on their decisionmaking and considers the adequacy of the theoretical models underpinning their choice processes. It is a case study essentially concerned with why students make the choices that they do, what processes are involved and what influences shape student choice.
The study was undertaken in the case study college – which delivers undergraduate programmes of study – partly as a result of the potential impact on the college of reduced FE to HE progression. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 16 students on three occasions during the 2011-12 academic year, to coincide with particular points during their decision-making process. An interpretivist paradigm was adopted as the literature shows that many aspects of higher education choice relate to socially constructed realities which could only become fully apparent during qualitative inquiry, with a close relationship between the researcher and what is studied.
The study found that students were not deterred unduly by the prospect of increased tuition fee debt on graduation, but that their choices of where to study were strongly influenced by concerns about living costs whilst studying and other considerations such as proximity to home that are already documented in the literature on higher education choice, largely from the theoretical perspective set out by Pierre Bourdieu (1974). The need for ontological security (Giddens, 1991) was clearly evident in many participants’ comments and was a strong underlying theme.
Fieldwork demonstrated that at the point of decision-making, actors sought to make pragmatically rational decisions, within limits conditioned by their social capital, and therefore argues for a two-stage model of decision-making similar to that espoused by Raymond Boudon (1974). Glaesser and Cooper (2014) have argued convincingly for a combination of Bourdieu and Boudon’s work in this manner. Whilst this has merit, this thesis notes Hodkinson’s (2008) concerns regarding the explanatory capability of existing theoretical models in simultaneously addressing key aspects of HE choice at both macro and micro levels, rather than merely severally. It argues that at a micro level Herbert Simon’s 1957 model of bounded rationality best explains decision–making, and uniquely that the boundaries of actors’ choices are limited by their habitus. It concludes that actors’ boundedly-rational decisions and levels of satisficing are conditioned by their habitus, such that higher education choice is best characterised as ‘conditioned bounded rationality’.

28 R_M_Raby_PhD_thesis_June_2016_U1072044_changes_not_tracked.pdf - Accepted Version
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