Self-selection at the gate: Factors and mechanisms in the decisions of qualified Dutch youngsters not to apply for or enroll at higher education institutions.

Client: Nationaal Regieorgaan Ondewijsonderzoek (NRO)

Dutch research shows that 37 percent of graduates from secondary and vocational education qualified for higher education (HE), decide not to continue in HE (Van den Broek et al., 2019). This may indicate an access problem, which is, from a social justice perspective, unwanted for. International research shows unequal access for different student groups (Perna, 2006; Whitty et al., 2015). Whitty et al. (2015), for example, show how first generation students encounter different hindering mechanisms compared to traditional students. The research area on access seems to need more coherence as well as contextualizing, as results often depend on characteristics of HE systems.

To address this gap in the research area, we aim to conduct a systematic literature review answering the following research question: “What are factors and mechanisms in in youngsters’ decisions not to continue in higher education?”. On the basis of this review, a theoretical framework will be developed that describes the main factors and mechanisms in relation to HE system characteristics.

To contextualize this framework, we intend to conduct a qualitative study, aiming to answer the question: “What meaning do youngsters give to factors and mechanisms, as described in the framework, relevant in their decision not to further their career in Higher Education?”. Semi-structured interviews are held with qualified students at each of the three qualifying levels of vocational and secondary education.

On the basis of the outcomes of the two studies, research recommendations are formulated as well as policy recommendation in the area of access to HE.

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