New research led by RSA Academies and Warwick University

Tackling educational disadvantage

Warwick University and RSA Academies have created a new PhD research post focussing on young people’s friendships and their relationship to higher education aspiration. This four year studentship has been awarded to Krystal Douglas who began her research in October 2015 supported by Professor Ian Abbott and Professor Christina Hughes, Warwick University and Alison Critchley, Chief Executive, RSA Academies.

Why should this be explored?

At the moment there is no evidence the relationship between young people from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds’ participation in higher education and how these young people’s peer networks (or friendships) effect educational aspiration and attainment. Past research has only focused on attainment as a single issue, this research post brings these two fields together.

What will be looked specifically at?

The studentship will examine the impact of friendship networks in school and ‘newer friendships’ that are developed over time by university based outreach programmes to enable us to understand how perception of the future affects present actions and decisions relating to the future.

Quantitative and qualitative methods will both be used, there will first be interviews with students aged 14 to 18 to map key choices from Key Stage 4 and 5 to university. The next step is narrative interviews using social network analysis to build ‘network layers’. Key events will be mapped out, such as university outreach activities and parent’s evenings. This will contribute to a ‘life map’ of other people’s expectations and imagined futures both for themselves and the young people involved.

It will be an open-ended inquiry that focuses on evidence using young people’s experiences to drive the research.

What will you do with this research?

It is hoped that the outcomes of research whilst demonstrating the relationship is between young people from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds’ participation in higher education and how their or friendships effect educational aspiration will make in-roads in tackling educational disadvantage. At the conclusion of this research we will share the findings and seek to make presentations to key policy makers to influence change as suggested by the research findings. Krystal hopes that it would ‘help to establish ways we may best support student progression from school to university’.

Schools involved:

Project details:

Date Started October 2014
Date Finished July 2019
Project Funder Warwick University

I am thrilled to be working with the RSA Academies on this ground breaking research exploring how the wide range of adolescent relationships support applicants throughout their higher education journey; from their early thoughts about their options post-16 through to their first day in higher education.

Krystal Douglas