A level sociology revision – education, families, research methods, crime and deviance and more!
Sociological perspectives on the role and functions of education in society; the significance of in-school processes such as teacher labelling and subcultures for pupil identities; explanations for differences in educational achievement by social class, gender and ethnicity; the impact of education policies of marketization, selection and privatisation, and the globalization of education
The table below compares earnings at age 29 of female graduates compared to non graduates for different subject areas.
As you can see, female economics graduates earn 150% more than non graduates, with medicine not far behind and most of the rest of the STEM subject graduates earning 100% more.
Meanwhile at the other end of the scale social care and create arts degree graduates only earn about 20-25% more than non-graduates, making these degrees a lot less valuable in terms of purely financial returns.
The significance of these statistics
Fair enough I guess that medicine yields a decent return, I don’t think there’s much scope to criticise that, and given the innovation within science and engineering, the fact that these degrees result in 100% higher earnings at age 29 isn’t surprising either.
HOWEVER, I have a problem with economics graduates earning so much more. It’s very unlikely that these people are earning so much money because of the social good they are doing. It’s probably more likely that they’re sucking money upwards to the already rich working for corporations and hedge funds, or doing crude econometric (read ‘guess work’) analysis for large institutions like the World Bank. They’re reward is probably making the rich richer, or at least keeping them rich.
Meanwhile down at the bottom, I’m not so sure whether the low return on the caring degrees shows how little we value this qualitative side of life, rather than the fact that degrees in such subjects maybe can’t teach you that much?!? I mean with caring, how much is there that you can’t learn on the job, honestly, or just learn at level 3.
Don’t get me wrong though, I think caring professions are very much underpaid.
As to creative arts… I’m not sure whether these are undervalued, difficult for me to say with any level of objectivity, although if these stats are anything to go by, it shows us that ‘society’ doesn’t value art very highly!
NB – The figures for men are a little different, check out the above study if yer interested!
This is YET MORE evidence of how private schools seem to play a crucial role in the reproduction of class inequality. The chain seems to be:
Go to a private school and get hot-housed
Get into a Russel Group university
Get a better paid job.
It also shows that we need to keep researching exactly how private schools confer advantages on children from rich backgrounds and on just exactly how material and cultural capital combine to get these kids better jobs as adults.
The above stats show all earners, including those who failed their GCSEs, so we’re not really comparing like with like when we compare highest and lowest SES categories, because so many people from the lowest SES category fail to get 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, which means they are much less likely to go to HE, which has a significant negative impact on their earnings at age 29.
With these stats we are going back to a cohort which sat their GCSEs over 10 years ago, so they are already dated, although in fairness, this is unavoidable with a longitudinal analysis such as this.
*Given that only 7% of UK children go to private school, and that most have to pay fees, attendance at private school strongly suggests that this is the top tenth decile of students by ‘social class’ background, so the top half of the top fifth.
At age 29 male graduates earn £13K more per year than those with 5*-Cs without a degree while women earn £10K per annum more.
Look at another way, this means that a degree should pay for itself after just four years if you’re a woman, and three years if your a man…
I calculated these figures based on research into the impact of degrees on future earnings at the age of 29 conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
If you look at the wages earned by HE graduates compared to people who got 5 A*-Cs at age 29, then female HE graduates earn £10K more per year before tax, while men earn £13K more per year, again after tax.
If we reduce this difference a little to take account of taxation, then we get the figures above: a degree pays back in earnings after just 3 years for men and 4 years for women, at least once they reach the age of 29.
All of this assumes tuition fess are £9K a year for 3 years, and doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of HE students not having earned anywhere near as much for 3 years while studying compared to non HE students.
Having said that, I think it’s fair enough to take a long term view, and look at things 6-7 years or so after graduating… a degree is a long term investment after all.
My tax calculations are also approximate.
NB – the above figures are averages, and there are considerable variations on this depending on the subject you choose to study, and other factors such as your class background. For more info on the study, you might also like this post!
U.K. universities typically charge £9250 year for most Higher Education degree courses, which means a total cost of £27 750 for a standard, three year degree. But is it worth it?
This post summarises the findings of a recent quantitative study conduct by the Department for Education and the Institute for Fiscal studies which examines the impact of having a degree on early career salaries (up until 29 years old), taking into account a whole range of background factors such as prior attainment at GCSE, social class background, and gender as well as the type of university and subject studied.
What is the impact of going to university on future earnings?
Overall, at age 29 the average woman who attended HE earns > 50% more than the average woman (with five A*-C GCSEs) who did not.
For men the gap is 25%, which is still significant.
Class background and prior attainment still explain more than HALF the difference
HOWEVER, a lot of the above difference in future earnings is explained by differences prior to university – and once we take into account higher prior attainment and class background,
There’s actually quite a difference here between men and women – female graduates earn 28% more than non-graduates, while male graduates earn only 8% more. So class background seems to affect men more than women?!? It sees that factors such as cultural capital may still matter!
Russel Group graduates do a lot better!
The type of institution has a large affect on future salary gains – those attending Russel Group universities can look forward to much higher salaries compared to those attending post 1992 institutions.
Overall, significant salary gains are enjoyed by 85% of students (99% of women, 67% of men)
Subject studied matters!
Future incomes vary greatly by subject studied. Men studying creative arts, English or philosophy actually end up with lower earnings on average at age 29 than those who did not go to university. However, studying medicine or economics increases male earnings by more than 20%.
For women, there are no subjects that have negative returns, and studying economics/ medicine increases their earnings age 29 by around 60%.
Looked at from a purely financial perspective, in 2018 it still makes financial sense for most people to do a degree, but some gain more out their degrees than others.
But there are some quite complex correlations between future earnings, subject studied, gender, and so on, and the final two graphics above do an excellent job of showing how these variables interact.
Based purely on the stats, if you’re a lad with ‘low GCSE’ attainment going to a bottom-end university, it’s probably not worth you doing a degree.
For most other graduates, earning 20% more, that’s £6K extra on a £30K salary, roughly, so after tax, your degree would have more or less paid for itself by your late 20s, early 30s. Sooner, if you’re doing economics or medicine!
Having said that, there are other benefits to going to university besides widening your job prospects and improving your future salary – such as the knowledge, the friends and the lolz, and of course these might well be priceless.
And Very Finally a word of the advice for the uncertain….
If you’re not sure whether you should do a degree or not, or if you’re uncertain about what subject you should do, don’t let your parents or your college pressurise you into applying to university NOW. You can always apply with a ‘gap year’, or just not apply and apply next year or the year after… starting on the wrong course and dropping out is a very expensive (£9.25K) mistake to make, and you’ll probably gain little from it other than stress.
So if you’re uncertain, just chilax, even if the people around you are going mental at you about applying. I took a year out after my A-levels, and had a great time being unemployed and reading philosophy before applying for my degree in American Studies and Anthropology – two great subjects I never would have applied for while at school.
This post was written for educational purposes. And the above advice does not actually constitute advice, ask a so called professional if yer uncertain about yer future.
There has been a staggering 2000% increase in unconditional university offers awarded to students in the last five years, between 2013 to 2018.
In 2013, a mere 2985 students were awarded unconditional offers, compared to 61, 915 in 2018. To put this in percentage terms: in 2013 0.4 % of offers were unconditional, which rose to 7.1% of offers in 2018. This is all according to UCAS’ latest ‘end of cycle report‘.
Or to put it in its most ‘dramatic terms’ – that’s a nearly 2000% increase in unconditional offers in 5 years.
Why do universities make unconditional offers?
The obvious answer from a ‘psychological’ prospective is that an unconditional offer sends out a message to a student that the university ‘wants them’, that it ‘thinks favourably of them’, basically that it ‘likes them’, which makes that university more appealing to the student.
According to the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, they use unconditional offers to attract high caliber students, which is going to be an advantage in a competitive market place, improving results and the calibre of graduate job the students get, which is all good for surviving in a competitive education market.
Universities are also using unconditional offers more crudely, to get ‘bums on seats’ in order to expand. The immediate policy impetus for this was the removal of the cap on the number of students each university could take on.
Driving this sort ‘unconditional expansion’ is again the market driven education system – in which you either expand or die. More bums on seats = more profit = more investment to attract more students. It’s just crude survival of the fittest in this crudest of systems.
70% of students support universities giving out unconditional offers, citing the reduction in stress and increase in mental health benefits that this certainty brings.
Ironically, this means that while our marketized education system induces more pressure and stress through-out school life generally, ironically it’s created a ‘stress free’ window for those students who get unconditional offers in their final year 13.
Or to put it more bluntly, those students who ‘have to pass their A-levels’ to get into the university of their choice are 10% more likely to do so than those who have just been gifted a place.
As an A-level teacher, I can testify that this is more than a bit crap when you are judged on your results… it means 7% of your students more likely to underachieve and there is literally nothing you can do can to motivate some of them. Unconditional offers undermines the ability of 16-19 teachers to meet the targets they are judged by. This is thus dysfunctional.
Underachieving at A-level might also come back to disadvantage students when they apply for jobs. Employers do look at A-level grades after all, and CCC is going to look a bit slack compared to a 2.1. It sends out the message that a students switches off when they can, rather than always giving their all. And if there’s more than one candidate or more for a job, the chances are they’ll be someone else in the field with a 2.1 and BBB (or whatever their target grades were at A-level).
It’s also extremely unfair… seven percent of students with a stress-free ride, compared to the rest of students having to achieve. It’s just not equitable.
An upside: widening participation?
The UCAS report does show that higher attaining students are most likely to be required to get their grades, which unconditional offers mainly going to mid-range students, and in terms of subjects, medicine hardly gives out any unconditional offers, whereas it’s the creative arts which give out the most.
This does suggest that unconditional offers are being used to widen participation, however, I’d need to see how this relates to retention to make a judgement as to how effective this is.
Final thoughts – should we ban unconditional offers?
If students are required to get grades at the end of 13, then I say yes, simply on the basis of equity. It’s not fair subjecting most students to the stress of having to achieve and a significant minority to an easier ride.
Also, I don’t see how scrapping unconditional offers is going to prevent universities expanding, or from managing their future intake: scrapping unconditional offers would only delay knowing the intake for the next year by 10 months, which is not that long in the grand scheme of things, and there’s plenty of other indicators universities could use in this big data era to forecast realistic numbers with sufficient certainty.
https://www.ucas.com/file/196151/download?token=jzRAy4kS (image 1, and the link to the UCAS report)
Useful links to quantitative and qualitative research studies, statistics, researchers, and news paper articles relevant to gender and education. These links should be of interest to students studying A-level and degree level sociology, as well as anyone with a general interest in the relationship between gender, gender identity, differential educational achievement and differences in subject choice.
Just a few links to kick-start things for now, to be updated gradually over time…
A link to Professor Becky Francis’ research, which focuses mainly on gender differences in educational achievement – at time of writing (November 2017) her main focus seems to be on girls lack of access to science and banding and streaming (the later not necessarily gender focused)
Specific resources for exploring gender and differential educational achievement
Education as a strategy for international development – despite the fact that girls are outperforming boys in the United Kingdom and most other developed countries, globally girls are underachieving compared to boys in most countries. This link takes you to a general post on education and social development, many of the links explore gender inequality in education.
Specific resources for exploring gender and subject choice
Dolls are for Girls, Lego is for Boys – A Guardian article which summarizes a study by Becky Francis’s on Gender, Toys and Learning, Francis asked the parents of more than 60 three- to five-year-olds what they perceived to be their child’s favourite toy and found that while parental choices for boys were characterised by toys that involved action, construction and machinery, there was a tendency to steer girls towards dolls and perceived “feminine” interests, such as hairdressing.
Girls are Logging Off – A BBC article which briefly alerts our attention to the small number of girls opting to do computer science.
Why are schools off-rolling more students just before their GCSEs?
Mainstream secondary schools are increasingly engaging in the process of ‘off-rolling’ students between year 10 and sitting their GCSEs, according to a recent OFSTED report:
In 2017, a total of 19 000 students left a school between year 10 and sitting their GCSEs in 2011. This is 10% more than in the previous year.
A total of 2,900 schools offrolled at least one pupil between years 10 and 11,
560 schools had numbers which were significantly above what Ofsted would expect
300 schools had significantly higher offrolling numbers for two consecutive years.
What are the characteristics of off-rolling schools and off-rolled students?
Children with special educational needs, looked after children and some minority ethnic groups are more likely to leave their school.
A higher proportion of schools in London off-roll pupils compared to other parts of the country
Academies, particularly those in academy trusts off-roll more pupils than local authority schools.
What happens to off-rolled students?
Half of them go to other schools – either from LEA to LEA schools or from an Academy to an LEA school (but less likely in the other direction!), and I imagine some will go to Pupil Referral Units.
Half of off-rolled students in 2017 did not reappear in the census of another state school, and according to Jason Bradbury, Ofsted’s deputy director for data and insight, these pupils may now be attending an unregistered school or have dropped out of education entirely.
Of course some of these pupils will be being homeschooled, although TBH it’s probably more a case of their being ‘homeschooled’.
Links to A-level sociology
Bit busy today to thrash out the links, but there seems to be evidence of mainly academies doing this to game the results: getting rid of students most likely to fail, and so this appears to be an obvious unintended negative consequence of marketisation!
Education teaches us specialist skills for work – At school, individuals learn the diverse skills necessary for this to take place. For example, we may all start off learning the same subjects, but later on we specialize when we do GCSEs. This allows for a complex division of labour to take place.
Role Allocation and meritocracy – Education allocates people to the most appropriate job for their talents using examinations and qualifications. This ensures that the most talented are allocated to the occupations that are most important for society. This is seen to be fair because there is equality of opportunity – everyone has a chance of success and it is the most able who succeed through their own efforts – this is known as meritocracy
The reproduction of class inequality and the myth of meritocracy – In school, the middle classes use their material and cultural capital to ensure that their children get into the best schools and the top sets. This means that the wealthier pupils tend to get the best education and then go onto to get middle class jobs. Meanwhile working class children are more likely to get a poorer standard of education and end up in working class jobs. In this way class inequality is reproduced
School teaches the skills future capitalist employers need through the ‘Hidden Curriculum (e.g. pupils Learn to accept authority; they learn to accept hierarchy, and motivation by external rewards)
Willis described the friendship between the 12 boys (or the lads) he studied as a counter-school culture. Their value system was opposed to that of the school. They looked forward to paid manual work after leaving school and identified all non-school activities (smoking, going out) with this adult world, and valued such activities far more than school work. The lads believed that manual work was proper work, and the type of jobs that hard working pupils would get were all the same and generally pointless.
Stereotypical views of teachers and careers advisors as well as peer group pressure means that subject choices are still shaped by traditional gender norms – which limits the kind of jobs boys and girls go onto do in later life.
Even though girls do better at school, they still get paid less than men, so qualifications do not necessarily result in more pay!
The mid 1970s was a time of rising unemployment in Britain, particularly among the young. It was argued that the education system was not producing a skilled enough workforce and that the needs of the economy were not being met. From the mid 1970s both the Conservative and Labour governments agreed that education should be more focussed on improving the state of the economy by providing training courses for young people in different areas of work.
This emphasis on meeting the needs of industry became known as ‘New Vocationalism’ which first took off in the 1980s.
This is one of the 10 mark analyse questions appearing on one of the AQA’s specimin papers, below I’ve simply adapted the AQA’s model answer and added in my own commentary….
Hooks in the item
What to apply the hooks to = pupil subcultures!
Schools give status to pupils on the basis of characteristics such as their perceived ability, behaviour and attitude, and this is often related to pupils’ class, gender and ethnicity.
Pupils with desirable characteristics are given higher status and treated differently. These pupils are likely to do well and to feel positive about school. Some other pupils may be more concerned about their friends’ opinions of them than with the school’s view of them.
The text below has been modified from the AQA’s student responses and examiner commentary. All I’ve done is split the paragraphs apart to show you clearly that there are 4-5 explanations/ development of each point. NB the response got 10/10.
Hargreaves argued that schools streamed pupils on the basis of their behaviour (Item A line 2). Those students who were labelled as a trouble-maker were put in the lower stream.
They had two negative labels put on them. They were penalised by being put in a secondary school (modern) and by being put in the lower streams. The teachers called them worthless louts. The students were denied status and came together to create a sense of self-worth forming anti-school subcultures.
They did this by inverting the values of the school. In an anti-school sub-culture being bad became being good. Thus they didn’t hand in homework, cheated and broke school rules.
The more they did this the more their respect increased amongst their peers. Because these pupils were treated differently (Item A line 3) they developed a sub-culture.
The way teachers treat pupils causes pupils to form a subculture. This may be because they are labelled by teachers in the classroom. Labelling means attaching a definition such as bright or high achiever.
This labelling may be due to external factors such as possessing elaborated language code. Lacey found that teacher labelling can result in polarisation of pupils, where they become even further apart in achievement and behaviour.
Those who are positively labelled form pro-school subcultures, they tend to mix with other who are similarly labelled. The pupils in these subcultures work hard and have good behaviour.
These pupils gain more favour with the teachers and research by Ball showed how this meant the teacher spent more time with them. Linking to the first point, these pupils are also more likely to end up in higher streams, further improving their chances of educational success.
Good knowledge and understanding of two relevant reasons, streaming and labelling, for the reasons why pupils form subcultures. These include relevant sociological evidence and concepts. The points show developed application of the material from the item. The answer also draws links between the two reasons for the formation of subcultures. 10/10 marks awarded
Karl’s Commentary – How to answer 10 mark questions?
From this example, it seems obvious that the student has nit-picked the item to the extreme. What they’ve done in both responses is linked the first section of the item to the second section, so if you can do this, then that’s clearly best practice!
They’ve also done the following to ‘differentiate’: note – they talk about four different things!
Streaming – linked to anti-school subcultures
Labelling – linked to pro-school subcultures.
An alternative strategy may have been to pick up on the class, gender and ethnicity element and use this to differentiate even further in both points!
NB – There’s a colour coded version of the above in the revision bundle below, in which I show all the many links the candidate makes to the item!