• Graduate gap years: Narratives of postponement in graduate employment transitions in England.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane; Everitt, Julia; University of Derby (Routledge, 2018-07-26)
      For UK higher education students, the ‘gap year’ or ‘year out’ is historically conceptualised as an amassing of wider life experience, often overseas, during a twelve-month period between the completion of A-level studies and the first year of a university degree. However, in a recent comparative study, which saw interviews conducted in both 2014 and 2015 with final year undergraduate students (n74) from different social backgrounds, across two English universities (one Russell Group university and one Post-1992 university), the term ‘gap year’ was being re-appropriated to capture something different. The term was being used to describe a period following graduation in which graduands planned to take low-paid work or ‘ordinary’ jobs, take stock of their financial situation, and attempt to save money and/or repay urgent debt. A high proportion of students in the 2015 stage of the study (16/37) spoke of taking a graduate gap year, compared with 9/37 in 2014. It may be that the increasing costs of debt-based forms of higher education payment coinciding with growing precarious employment has contributed to this situation. By borrowing the term gap year to describe a new and different phenomenon, some of the student interviewees may be legitimising the predicament in which they find themselves. This chapter explores the experiences of students who spoke of taking a graduate gap year. It examines the different roles of a graduate gap year and discusses wider implications for unequal graduate outcomes.
    • Greater expectations of graduate futures? A comparative analysis of the views of the last generation of lower-fees undergraduates and the first generation of higher-fees undergraduates at two English universities.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane (Society for Research into Higher Education, 2016-02-01)
      Student finance in UK higher education (HE) has been radically reformed over the past twenty years and the changes in student finance policies have been the focus for a growing body of education research (see for example, Bowl and Hughes, 2014; Bachan, 2014; Wakeling and Jefferies, 2013; Wilkins et al., 2012; Dearden et al., 2011; Moore et al., 2011; McCaig, 2010; Callender and Jackson, 2008). The majority of these existing studies, however, focus on the impact of differing tuition fee levels on students’ enrolment behaviour and the beginning of students’ HE careers. There is little research that has investigated how the most recent increase in tuition fees and changes to student loans, under the 2012 student finance system, have affected the views of graduands (university students who are about to graduate) and their approaches toward their graduate futures. This scoping study has been developed to start to address this gap in knowledge and understanding. In 2014, prior to the SRHE research award, the research team produced a unique qualitative baseline of the views of a sample of undergraduate students who were graduating in the summer of 2014. These graduands were part of the last cohort of students to have paid lower tuition fees and would therefore be graduating with less student debt. This follow-up study, funded by the SRHE, sought to generate new data in order to be able to compare the views, ambitions and experience of a sample of 2014 graduands with a sample of 2015 graduands.
    • Higher fees, higher debts: Greater expectations of graduate futures? A research-informed comic.

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Harris, Diane (Society for Research into Higher Education, 2016-07-01)
      This is a research-informed comic, which is a graphic representation of a research report produced for the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) on the perspectives and experiences of university graduates who were part of the first generation to pay higher university tuition fees.
    • Higher fees, higher debts: Unequal graduate transitions in England?

      Vigurs, Katy; Jones, Steven; Everitt, Julia; Harris, Diane; University of Derby; University of Manchester (Emerald, 2018-05-09)
      This chapter draws on findings from a comparative, qualitative research project that investigated the decision-making of different groups of English higher education students in central England as they graduated from a Russell group university (46 interviewees) and a Post-92 university (28 interviewees). Half of the students graduated in 2014 (lower tuition fees regime) and the other half graduated in 2015 (higher tuition fees regime). The students interviewed were sampled by socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore students’ future plans and perceptions of their future job prospects. Despite higher debt levels, the 2015 sample of Russell Group graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds had a positive view of their labour market prospects and a high proportion had achieved either a graduate job or a place on a postgraduate course prior to graduation. This group had saved money whilst studying. The 2015 sample of Post-1992 University graduates (from both lower and average socio-economic backgrounds) were worried about their level of debt, future finances and labour market prospects. This chapter raises questions about whether a fairer university finance system, involving lower levels of debt for graduates from less advantaged backgrounds, might avoid some graduates’ transitions to adulthood being so strongly influenced by financial anxieties.