Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Foundation Degrees and Their Impact on Mature Female Learners and Their Communities

Bovill, Helen


Helen Bovill
Associate Professor of Education


Foundation Degrees (FDs) were introduced in 2000 as part of the Government’s drive to widen participation in higher education to groups that are (and continue to be) under-represented. Taking two years of full-time study, they were designed for those in employment and seeking career development, but who lacked traditional university entry qualifications. One common FD developed by many universities has been in ‘educational support’ – aimed primarily at teaching assistants seeking to become teachers or other professional practitioners in schools. Due to this rationale, these courses have tended to recruit women from lower socio-economic groups who intend to work in their own communities on graduation.

The Transforming Lives project has explored the educational and professional trajectories of 21 women who have completed FDs in educational support at three universities. These participants were sampled from a questionnaire completed by 126 participants from across the universities.

Research questions explored were:

1. What impact did the FD have on career development and personal ‘horizons’?
2. How did their studies and their new status as a graduate affect relationships
with family, work colleagues and friends?
3. To what extent did the participants’ experiences add value to their local

This presentation will introduce 2 significant areas to emerge from the data:

1. A continued need for and enhancement of programmes of study that are flexible and recognise the demands of family life, the need to work, and an understanding of the ‘lived worlds’ (Urietta, 2007) of participants in terms of under and post-graduate pathways.
The data demonstrates students who have been both supported and obstructed by educational (and other) structures. Two case studies will be drawn upon here to demonstrate this and to further explore the impact of Archer’s reflexivities (2012, 2008 and 2008a) on graduate and post-graduate trajectories.

2. Shifting perspectives on understanding children’s individuality and acting as a bridge or advocate to challenge expectations of learners’ potential, drawing on the work of: Raphael Reed (2007) and Rubie-Davies (2012) and Rubie-Davies (2007).
Raphael-Reed’s work on bridging, bonding and linking capital and Rubie-Davis’ work on challenging expectations will explore how those with fractured educational lives themselves might act from empathy and understanding to support learners in their communities.


Bovill, H. (2017, July). Foundation Degrees and Their Impact on Mature Female Learners and Their Communities

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Jul 1, 2017
Deposit Date Jul 22, 2019
Public URL