Does prior qualification affect degree outcomes?
University of Exeter
Qualifications provided by the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC), as Pearson claim, are career-based qualifications designed to give students the skills they need to move on to higher education or go straight into employment. In reality these qualifications are centred on work based scenarios and students taking up these qualifications are not directly prepared for University. However, some universities accept BTEC qualifications as admission entry requirements either stand alone or in combination with other qualifications. Consequently, a growing percentage of BTEC students are now taking up undergraduate courses at the University. Analysing historic admissions and progression data as part of our ongoing HEFCE funded project we show prior qualifications are a strong predictor of end of first year results in undergraduate courses in the subject areas of Business, Management studies, Computer science, Sports science. Research findings from the exploratory phase of our study shows amongst the subject areas considered BTEC students are more likely to join Sports and Exercise science where they are also more likely to succeed. They are least likely to take up a course in Computer science where they are relatively less successful. Our analysis shows that the highest percentage of those who did not progress to the second year of study had entered Universities with a BTEC qualification. Through individual facing and system facing changes universities can create more supportive learning environments to reduce these inequalities in educational outcomes for this quite often overlooked widening participation cohort.
This paper reports findings from a research project funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE). We are grateful to Paul Ruddock, Linda Bull, Jane Reid and Kieran Nagar for dealing promptly with our data requests. We thank Hayley Dalton for her comments and suggestions on the appendix on BTEC specifications.
This is the author accepted manuscript.