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Students' views of higher education in their transitions to work in Portugal

Gouveia, Teresa Frances Pole-Baker (2010) Students' views of higher education in their transitions to work in Portugal. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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Higher education has grown to mass proportions in the past two decades in Portugal, with the political expectation that it will contribute to the knowledge economy and social change. However, the predominantly low skilled productive system has led to increasing graduate unemployment and underemployment. The central question in this research is what higher education signifies for students and graduates in this context. Higher education has the potential to change students' relationship with knowledge, developing critical thinking, autonomy and character (Barnett 1990). However, this potential for change depends on how individuals engage in it, according to their values and perspectives (Bloomer 2001). Moreover, knowledge is constructed contextually (Lave and Wenger 1991), and its relevance is not always clear when graduates start work. This longitudinal research therefore consisted of in-depth interviews with graduates to ascertain the meanings and values they attribute to higher education and how this changes in the transition to work. In this study, participants' view of higher education was narrow, focussing on how it affected their labour market opportunities, rather than as a place for personal development, gaining generic skills and critical engagement. This affected how they acted on their educational opportunities and the criteria by which they measured the validity of higher education after their transition to work. Moreover, labour market limitations meant that graduates who did not find work in areas directly related to their degree devalued their education. This study concluded that individual paths from education to work are affected by social networks, resources and significant others, but there are no deterministic effects of social class, gender or field of study. A key finding was that in contrast to Bloomer's concept of learning careers (1997), graduates' embedded knowledge was insufficient for their new work contexts; instead they needed to reconstruct their knowledge according to their socio-cultural resources, and membership of multiple communities. This has significance internationally for research into transitions to work. In general, broader perspectives of higher education by students and employers, greater support for the transition and greater labour market opportunities, would be beneficial for both graduates' self-realization and how mass higher education can affect the knowledge economy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Leaves 292-357 are appendices.
Depositing User: Batch Import
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2011 03:46
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2015 11:55
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