Student Motivation For Entry to Higher Education: a comparative analysis of students’ views in three different countries

Andrew, David, Bamford, Jan, Pheiffer, Gary, Artemyeva, Veronika and Roodt, Chantal (2005) Student Motivation For Entry to Higher Education: a comparative analysis of students’ views in three different countries. Investigations in university teaching and learning, 3 (1). pp. 12-17. ISSN 1740-5106


The aim of this research project was to investigate the motivation and attitudes of students on entry into higher education. There is a predominance of literature regarding students’ motivations and goals for entering higher education, but there is little that considers a comparative analysis of these motivations (Crossley and Watson 2003). The comparative analysis presented through this project permits an attempt at cultural contextualisation of the motivational factors at play in the decision-making processes of students prior to going to university.

The increasingly globalised educational market (Halpin and Buckley 2004) requires higher education institutions to be informed of cultural differences in motivations that impact on students, in order to develop not only broader recruitment strategies but also retention, achievement and learning strategies.

Stead (2004) argues the importance of culture with regard to career psychology and the value of social constructionism for illuminating such cultural issues. Social constructionism is a theoretical approach that aims to account for the ways in which phenomena such as ideas, attitudes and behaviours are socially constructed in a ‘matrix of interweaving relationships’, with knowledge being a cultural process of meaning making (ibid., p. 391). Whilst this paper does not attempt to explore issues of social constructionism in relation to choice of career, the relational aspect of this paradigm offers an insight into the importance of culture with regard to career choice and motivation. Certainly Bourdieu’s (1993) theories highlight the importance of cultural capital in relation to education, which in turn predicates the imperative of comparative higher educational research in contemporary globalised economies (Crossley and Watson, 2004).

Against this background of the need for a comparative study of motivation, the research team embarked on this preliminary study with the intention of identifying themes in relation to motivation from a cultural perspective. The paper focuses on two of the strongest themes that emerged from the initial results in terms of comparative differences, namely: preparation for university and attitudes to career choice.

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