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Exploring value added measures for UoB undergraduate students



This project seeks to explore value added measures for UoB undergraduate students, which adjust for attainment on entry to university, as well as the impact of admissions criteria (low school performance) and other relevant student background, academic department and contextual factors on the progress and retention of disadvantaged and other students. UOB datasets and value added techniques are utilised to investigate a range of pertinent issues (outlined below) directly relevant to the widening participation agenda and to inform and support UOB evidence-based policy in this area.

Department Differences
In terms of the outcome measure, both degree class and drop out are examined. A major focus of the research is departmental differences, which has already been identified as a feasible approach in small-scale work. Although it should be noted that with regard to drop out student outcomes are comparable across departments but more caution is required for degree class where for historical and other reasons departmental distributions may vary. A key emphasis will be on a comparison among students in terms of their ‘disadvantage’ status so that the model will need to allow that this may vary across departments (an interaction between status and dept).

Student background and composition
The School effectiveness literature has established that there are contextual and peer group effects in that the characteristics of students in the same year or class or department have an effect on a student’s progress over and above the student’s own characteristics – whether these are background factors such as social class or prior achievements. Thus, various student background and context/peer group factors such as the average prior achievement (A level and others) of students in the same entry cohort will be explored in our analysis. Moreover, other relevant departmental information such as class size will also be explored (if available via university records) to examine the potential role of department policy and practice in explaining student progress.

Specific research questions include:
(1) What are the relevant outcomes (e.g. drop out/degree class), baseline and explanatory factors (outside UOB control) in relation to estimating undergraduate student progress at UOB? What differences emerge in apparent student progress when utilising different qualification measures as the baseline or outcome measure, especially when comparing disadvantaged, non UK and other students? Does the evidence indicate that current admission requirements (including use of a low school performance indicator), and qualification equivalences are justifiable and valid, especially for disadvantaged and non UK students?
(2) What is the range and extent of UOB student progress within and across departments and/or faculties? What student background, departmental, contextual/peer group or other factors may explain differences in student progress across departments/faculties? What are the departmental effects and associated time trends when comparing disadvantaged, non UK and other students?
(3) What methodological tools can be developed (on the basis of RQ 1-2) to assist UOB (and other HEIs) in monitoring and evaluating the impact of UOB Widening Participation policies, especially with regard to the reality of progress achieved by disadvantaged and other students with differing entrance qualifications?
(4) What is the potential for matching equivalent HE datasets from across UK and/or South West region (eg including datasets from Bath, Exeter, Cardiff universities) to conduct a cross institution analysis? If such data is available, what is the range and extent of UOB student progress within and across institutions as well as departments and/or faculties? What are the institutional/departmental effects when comparing disadvantaged, overseas and other students?

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