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Research at St Andrews

Education and Social Stratification: The role of subject choices in secondary education on further education studies and labour market outcomes

Research output: Other contribution


Fiona McLean Cox


Previous research by Iannelli et al (2016) found that subject choice in upper secondary school was a key factor in explaining social inequalities in participation in higher education. Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study and its linked SQA education data allowed the researchers to explore whether this effect begins earlier in secondary school. The analyses found strong social inequalities in subject choice at S3/S4, with children from lower socio- economic backgrounds significantly less likely to choose subjects key for entry to university. Subject choice at this early stage was the strongest predictor of subsequent choices at 5th and 6th year. The results indicate that children from poorer backgrounds begin making choices early on in their secondary school career which may prevent them from moving into higher education. The findings have generated considerably interest from both practice and policy, and fed into the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Widening Access Commission.


Original languageEnglish
TypeImpact Case Study
Media of outputPDF via website
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2016

Publication series

NameImpact Case Studies
PublisherCALLS Hub

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