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How do mature undergraduate students self-author? A narrative enquiry of four accounting and finance undergraduate students

Guthrie, Clare Patricia (2016) How do mature undergraduate students self-author? A narrative enquiry of four accounting and finance undergraduate students. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This study is undertaken in a large post 92 university in which the intake each year for accountancy and finance is over 400. There is a prevailing assumption in the institution that the majority of the intake are classified as typical undergraduates coming straight from previous studies, with little or no sustained experience of the world of work. Little consideration is given to students identified as “mature” using the university definition of aged over 21 (HESA 2015). I became aware of a number of mature students in my roles as lecturer and latterly manager of this programme. Furthermore, the sacrifice of full-time paid employment for three years full-time study intrigued me. This study has three key aims. The first is to explore the processes involved in making a career change decision from full-time paid employment to full-time study for an accounting and finance undergraduate degree. The second is to analyse the ways that students identify and articulate changes to their identity, as they become mature full-time students. The third is to explore how structure and agency affect career choices of the mature undergraduate student. The research involved interviewing four accounting and finance undergraduate students. The choice of students was opportunistic as these were students known to me during the course of their studies. The analysis and discussion chapters delineate between pre and post university registration as two distinct phases. The pre university experience relates mainly to the first aim. The post university phase relates to the second aim and the third aim draws on both. The theoretical framework draws upon Bourdieu’s notions of capital, field and habitus and Holland et al’s (1998) concept of Figured Worlds with particular focus on notions such as the “standard plot” and “serious play”. A key finding from this research is that despite the ability to make the decision to change career themselves, the validation of this decision by others was important. The final chapter includes further findings concluding with impact on future practice and a critical reflection on and the limitations of the study.

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