Today we continue with the overviews of presentations and discussions that took place at our EUROSTUDENT Researchers’ Forum. The session on the social dimension of higher education brought people together to discuss issues related to equity, participation and living conditions of students in Europe:
Brian Gormley, head of student services from the Dublin Institute of Technology, talked about the impact of living arrangements on academic engagement for students in Ireland. Using the Tinto model and student-engagement theory as theoretical framework, he found out that (contrary to findings in other countries) students who live at home with their parents are students most satisfied with their living conditions. In Ireland, students from socio-economically more advantaged groups live with their parents. Moreover, the findings for Ireland contradict the common findings that on-campus living increases study performance – students living with their parents were most academically involved and the group least likely to develop problematic (alcohol drinking) behaviour. However, they are seldom involved in extracurricular activities.
Erica Finnerman and Frederik Lindström, from the Swedish Council for higher education, presented “Housing satisfaction in the diverse Swedish student population”. Contrary to Swedish media broadcasts claiming that Swedish students are dissatisfied with their housing situation, they found that the Swedish students are more satisfied with their housing situation compared to students in other EUROSTUDENT countries. The group least satisfied are younger students living in rented apartments or student dorms and consider their housing situation to be temporary. The students most satisfied with their housing situation in Sweden own their own house or a condo, are older and live with their family.
Ilze Trapenciere, from the University of Latvia gave a presentation about public funding for higher education and its impact on access and participation in higher education. She explained that students from cities and from more advantaged socio-economic background have access to better equipped upper secondary schools compared to students from rural areas in Latvia. Moreover, the Latvian higher education system is severely underfunded, due to a low share of public funding. Analysing the strategic fit between policy objectives and actual higher education policies, she came to conclude that the high dependency of the Latvian higher education funding system on tuition fees jeopardizes its long-term financial stability. Although plagued with problems on its own, an augmentation of publicly subsidized study places is recommended in order to increases chances for students from less-advantaged social backgrounds and from rural areas. However, it is problematic that a lot of students that studied on state budget funded places migrate to other countries after graduation.
Ivan Rimac and Jelena Ogestra, from the University of Zagreb in Croatia talked about social stratification in Croatian higher education system. The presentation focused on recent developments in the Croatian higher education system, where a binary system with academic and professional programs has been introduced in order to make higher education more accessible. This has led to a situation where public professional education programmes are mostly offered in more peripheral areas and university education as well as private professional education in the capital and bigger cities. The analysis of EUROSTUDENT VI data showed, that the new system has not solved the problem of accessibility to higher education, as the student population in universities and private HEIs is heavily over-represented with students from higher socio-economic background and the student population in public professional education institutions is over-represented by students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Jakub Fischer and Kristýna Vltavská, from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in Czech Republic, presented “Social Selectivity of Czech Tertiary Education: Comparison between EUROSTUDENT V and VI”. The impact of family status on educational attainment is rather strong in the Czech Republic; family status determines the type of school from which the pupils and future students’ graduate. There are no tuition fees for public higher education institutions in the Czech Republic, but the level of student support is very low and just 1% of student population receive a “social stipend”. The problem of social-selectivity is already prevalent at secondary education. Moreover, students from advantaged social background frequently choose to study whole study cycles abroad instead of enrolling in Czech higher education institutions. So even if they are exempt from the sample investigated here, social selectivity is still an important issue. The effect for short term mobility is the same; students from socially and economically advantaged backgrounds participate in credit mobility programmes such as ERASMUS more frequently.