Study expectations of different domiciled Postgraduate-Taught students in a UK post-1992-institution

Published date06 July 2015
Date06 July 2015
AuthorMichelle Morgan
Subject MatterEducation,Curriculum, instruction & assessment,Educational evaluation/assessment
Study expectations of different
domiciled Postgraduate-Taught
students in a UK
Michelle Morgan
Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University,
Kingston Upon Thames, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report the notable ndings of students with different domiciled
status. There is a lack of research and understanding of how prior study experiences and the expectations of
new students that are due to embark on an MSc by coursework level (also known as postgraduate-taught
[PGT]) can impact on their study and ability to persist and succeed. The research available has mainly been
conned to post-experience surveys. By identifying prior study experiences and study expectations,
education providers in higher education institutions can use these insights not only to attract more students
but to improve retention rates and the overall student experience. The research undertaken in the Faculty of
Science, Engineering and Computing at a London-based, post-1992 institution aims to provide valuable data
and insights into this nationally and internationally neglected area.
Design/methodology/approach New taught postgraduate students provided data on their
previous study experiences, study expectations, opinions of postgraduate-level study and demographic
data via a hard copy questionnaire which was distributed and completed during the orientation period
in September 2012. It was entered into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), and a range
of tests were run on the data.
Findings – The ndings in this paper and the project in general will be further explored and investigated
as a result of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) awarding a major grant to the
post-1992 university to undertake research into these areas amongst nine similar English universities.
Research limitations/implications – As the research was conducted over a one-year period, the
ndings are based on the limitations that such a time and nancially limited project can offer. The
institution at which the research was undertaken is a post-1992 institution that has high concentration
towards teaching functions. The ndings in this paper and the project in general will be further explored
and investigated as a result of the HEFCE awarding a major grant to the post-1992 university to
undertake research into these areas among nine similar English universities.
Originality/value The research highlights the similarities and differences in prior study
experiences and expectations of studying at PGT level between the UK-, the European Union- (EU) and
Non-EU-domiciled respondents. The research offers potentially important ndings for similar
institutions that are currently looking to develop and expand their PGT provision.
Keywords Expectations, UK, EU, Domiciled status, Non-EU, Postgraduate taught
Paper type Research paper
Up until 2010, participation in postgraduate-taught (PGT) study in the UK had grown
substantially, but little attention had been paid to what constituted a “high-quality
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 2 February 2014
Revised 18 May 2014
21 July 2014
Accepted 5 August 2014
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.23 No. 3, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-02-2014-0005
student experience” at this level of study. At the undergraduate level, understanding
students’ prior learning experiences and expectations is known to be one of the
important factors to consider when developing and delivering effective support for
students (Thomas, 2012;Morgan, 2013). This was one of the motivations behind the
research undertaken in the London-based post-1992 university and reported in this
paper. Since 2011, PGT enrolments in the UK have experienced a dramatic decline as
this paper will illustrate. As a result, this makes identifying prior study experiences and
future study expectations even more pressing at this level of study, so education
providers in higher education institutions (HEIs) can not only use these insights to
hopefully reverse the current decline in participation but also attract more students,
improve the overall student experience and increase retention rates.
Growth in postgraduate study
In 2003/2004, the number of students in the UK undertaking PGT qualication totalled
262,693, but, by 2010/2011, this had risen to 345,300 which is an increase of 31.5 per cent
(HESA, 2013a,2013c). The increase in the PGT student body at the post-1992 institution
in which the research was undertaken experienced greater growth than that seen at the
national level with an increase in enrolments of 57 per cent between 2003/2004 (4,395)
and 2010/2011 (6,895) (HESA, 2013a,2013c).
In 2011/2012, HESA statistics showed that students with “European Union-” (EU)
and Non-EU-domiciled status in the UK HEIs made up 176,640 of the 309,425 full-time
postgraduate enrolments which equated to 57 per cent (HESA, 2014). This was reected
in the post-1992 institution where 55.5 per cent of all full-time students held EU or
Non-EU status (Post-1992 institution, 2012). The HESA statistics also showed that EU
and Non-EU participation in part-time PGT study was nominal with only 33,070 of the
259,080 students enrolled on this mode of study (12.8 per cent) (HESA, 2014).This
pattern was again reected in the Post-1992 institution (2012), but the gure for EU
participation was higher with 23.9 per cent.
Reasons for the growth
The reasons suggested for the increase in growth at this level of study are numerous.
Bekhradnia from the Higher Education Policy Institute in 2005 suggested that not only
has the growth in the PG student body been due to the overall expansion in Taught
Master’s and Taught Doctoral degrees, but it had been the Non-EU market that had
helped the expansion (Bekhradnia, 2005). This argument appears to be substantiated
when the HESA gures up until 2010/2011 are examined (Figure 1). Between 2003/2004
and 2010/2011, enrolments amongst Non-EU students grew by 42.3 per cent compared
to 2.1 per cent for UK-domiciled students and 20.3 per cent for those from the EU.
Evidence suggests that postgraduate study is increasingly being undertaken for
career advancement rather than self-fullment (Stuart et al., 2008;Park and Kulej, 2009).
The UK Government policies and strategies have also been suggested as contributing to
the growth as they have specically been aimed at improving the global market for
higher education (Department of Education and Skills, 2003). As well as the potential
nancial gain for the individual by undertaking PGT study (Machin and Murphy, 2010;
Higher Education Commission, 2012), there may have also been a change in the
perceived value of the undergraduate degree within the employment market. One
possible reason why the postgraduate population has increased in recent years

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